Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn launched their careers with “Swingers”, but no one ever seemed to talk about the director, Doug Liman. Apparently Favreau couldn’t get the film made without Liman, who could secure financing, and the writer/actor may have been a little resentful. While those actors have worked on several films since then, not much has been heard from Liman. Now it’s the director’s turn.
“GO” takes place over the course of one Christmas night in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, two cities somewhere between Disneyland and Interzone. This black comedy follows a group of young (some not over 18) adults who stupidly put themselves into a great deal of trouble. The film doubles back in time more than once so we can see events from the perspective of different characters.
We start with a group of grocery store clerks: Ronna (Sarah Polley) just got off a 14-hour shift, desperate for cash as she’s about to be evicted, when Simon (Desmond Askew) offers up his shift so he can go to Vegas with his friends. She has an idea how to get the rest of the money she needs and drags fellow workers Mannie (Nathan Bexton) and Claire (Katie Holmes) along for the ride. They intersect with screw-up television actors Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr). Eventually, everyone mixes up with the drug dealing Todd Haynes (Timothy Oliphant) who was probably hoping for a quieter night.
The press describes this film as a “young Pulp Fiction” but it’s a cheap shot. Tarantino didn’t invent the elliptical story structure or snappy dialog. This film isn’t nearly as glib, either. There are a lot of drugs, though, and a lot of sex and techno but all are integral to the plot. Like a lot of Angelenos, the characters seem to have been raised on a lot of movies and will have to think on their feet if they’re going to survive the repercussions of their own stupidity. Like a deer in headlights, when the high beams of trouble speed toward them you have to GO or get run over.
Liman, who also acted as director of photography, has made a great looking film. The cast also sparkles, especially Polley, Olyphant, and Bexton. Polley, who you may remember as the little girl in Terry Gilliam’s “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” is like a younger Bridget Fonda with a lot of depth. Olyphant, wielding menace, frustration, and incredulity stands out as probably the most sensible character but a little too distracted by a pretty face. Bexton proves he’s ready for all the parts from which David Arquette’s has grown away.
“GO” has more in common with Scorsese than John Hughes. The film captures a point in time in a certain city. It’s still a comedy and while the main characters may walk away from their self-induced troubles, it’s with a psychological or physical limp. Doug Liman has proven himself at least as much as Favreau or Vaughn, and produced an incredible cinema joyride.