Film Length: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Codec: AVC
Audio: English, French and Portugese Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English; English SDH; French; Spanish; Portugese
Disc Format: 1 50GB
Theatrical Release Date: Apr. 9, 1999
Blu-ray Release Date: Aug. 18, 2009
After he made the independent hit Swingers, but before getting hooked on star-driven studio fare like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Doug Liman directed Go. The film didn’t do major box office, but it got a lot of critical attention. The National Board of Review awarded it “special recognition” for “excellence in filmmaking”.
Looking back after ten years, you can view Go as Liman’s transitional film. His roots in the indie world are apparent in both the choice of John August’s script, with its casually hip subject matter and fractured chronology, and the casting (though many of the faces are now more familiar). But Liman, who did double-duty as cinematographer, also gave the film a polished visual style and, with the help of editor Stephen Mirrione (who would later win an Oscar for Traffic), a pace and energy that would be right at home in any mainstream action movie. Even though much of Go was shot in the guerilla style of an independent film, it’s not hard to see in it the emergence of the commercially savvy director who would go on to create the Bourne and Jumper franchises.
Go consists of three overlapping stories, all of which begin from a common point but then diverge, return and criss-cross. At the conclusion of each story, the film rewinds to the common point of origin, then shoots off in a different direction.
To recount any of the three stories in detail would be to spoil a first viewing of Go; so I’ll limit this account to broad outlines.
The stories begin in a supermarket in Los Angeles, where no one likes their job. It’s a few days before Christmas, and Ronna (Sarah Polley, who had previously refused to take any role that required shooting in L.A.) is wearily coming off a long shift and heading home where she’s about to be evicted for non-payment of rent. Over the protest of Ronna’s friend Claire (Katie Holmes), their co-worker Simon (Desmond Askew), a Brit to whom even this lowly grocery checkout job seems to be an American adventure, prevails on Ronna to take his shift so that he can accompany a group of “mates” on a Vegas weekend. As tired as she is, Ronna needs the money. She agrees, and Simon takes off.
Enter Adam and Zack (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr, perfectly paired). Simon is their regular Ex connection, and they’re crushed to learn from Ronna that Simon’s not there for his usual shift. They have a big event coming up and ask Ronna if she can help them out. Eager for any source of additional cash, she says she’ll see what she can do.
Commandeering Claire and another co-worker, Mannie (Nathan Bexton), Ronna goes in search of Simon’s connection, the legendary Todd Gaines (Timothy Olyphant in a scene-stealing performance). Mannie and Claire warn her that she’s committing a severe breach of drug dealer protocol, but Ronna needs the money. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have enough cash to front Gaines his price for the full amount that Adam and Zack want to buy. The only way Ronna can persuade Gaines to let her pay him the balance after she completes the sale is to leave Claire with Gaines as “collateral” – and Claire isn’t thrilled about it.
Do I even need to say that Ronna’s deal doesn’t go as planned? The evening spirals further and further out of control until . . . well, you’ll have to watch it.
We rewind back to Simon trading his shift to Ronna and follow him to Vegas with his three friends: Marcus (Taye Diggs), Tiny (Breckin Meyer) and Singh (James Duval, a veteran of many cult films, including Donnie Darko, where he wore the rabbit mask). The chemistry among the four actors is excellent, and the conversation during their road trip is as randy and rowdy as any classic teen comedy. Breckin Meyer’s Tiny is the classic white kid wannabe, who tries to talk and act like he grew up in South Central. (At times, Meyer almost seems to be channeling his future Robot Chicken colleague Seth Green’s performance in Can’t Hardly Wait.) No one takes him seriously.
Marcus, since he’s played by Taye Diggs, is the truly cool one: ladies’ man, sharp dresser, practitioner of tantric sex. Trouble is, when they get to Vegas, he’s constantly being mistaken for a washroom attendant or a parking employee. When some high roller tosses Marcus the keys to his Ferrari, something snaps, and Marcus leaps in and drives off with Simon in tow. In the glove compartment, Simon finds a gun, which is exactly the kind of thing that a group like this shouldn’t have.
Simon is a happy-go-lucky magnet for mishaps, and before the night is out, he’ll have lost all his money at the tables, been involved in a major hotel fire (while engaged in a dream-come-true sexual adventure), and caused an uproar at the Crazy Horse strip club that leads to a wild car chase through the back streets of Vegas. By the early hours of the morning, the four friends are fleeing the city and the wrath of a small-time operator played by the always-threatening J.E. Freeman. Time to rewind again!
The third story follows Adam and Zack, the Ex buyers who approached Ronna when they couldn’t find Simon. It’s impossible to describe this story without major spoilers except to say Adam and Zack aren’t what they first appear to be. The single most famous scene in Go is the one where Adam and Zack have dinner at the house of Burke (William Fichtner), the person for whom they were buying the Ex, and his overly perky wife (Jane Krakowski). Those who know the film know exactly what I’m referring to. Those who don’t will thank me for saying nothing more. (Besides, no description could do it justice.)
Liman has described Go as a film about being in your twenties and being able to get away with doing incredibly stupid things (not that there aren’t consequences; police, hospital facilities and a lifeless body make memorable appearances). That’s a fair summary of the film’s four alternating protagonists, although it doesn’t apply equally to each of them. Ronna may be surly and reckless, but she’s loyal to her friends. By contrast, Adam and Zack are gradually revealed to be so duplicitous that they can’t trust even each other. And in Simon, Desmond Askew creates the most hilarious portrait of an irrepressible British loonie since Monty Python. The scene in which Simon finds the gun in the stolen Ferrari could lead a hardcore gun enthusiast and a devout anti-gun campaigner to agree on one thing: that this twit shouldn’t be allowed near a cap pistol.
The characters’ ability to get themselves into one mess after another supplies most of the comedy. What supplies the film’s energy and its propulsive drive is the sheer elan of the filmmaking. Liman did the camerawork himself, and he was right there with the actors. He instinctively finds the energy in every shot and focuses on the central element of what’s happening in the moment. His talented editor keeps what’s essential, cuts out the excess, and the result is a film that feels like it’s always in motion, even if two characters are just staring at each other. I’ve never really understood why the film is called Go, but obviously Liman took the title literally, because he made a film that opens by fracturing the studio logo (something he explains in the commentary) and hurtles forward from that point onward, pausing only for a moment or two to do something unexpected like let a character hallucinate a conversation with a cat. Ten years later, the film still works, which is a tribute to its craftsmanship.
The hi-def image is the chief attraction of this Blu-ray, which otherwise offers nothing new in the way of content. It is every bit as good as we’ve come to expect from Sony, with solid blacks, exceptional detail and excellent color delineation. Crowd scenes like those at the late-night rave are the kind that, for me, really showcase the strength of Blu-ray. On DVD, it’s rare to be able to make out substantial detail in faces or clothing in such scenes, but on a good Blu-ray like this one you can – even in the dark. And when Adam and Zack enter the mysterious recesses of Burke’s home, every brightly lit detail is visible, and the vibe is all the more sinister because the wholesome surroundings are so in-your-face. And let’s not even talk about the lap dance scene.
The Dolby TrueHD track is a knockout. Go has one of those great “manipulated” soundtracks where the goal is less to simulate a natural environment than to use sound as an expression of what’s happening on screen. When a character has taken way too much extasy, the soundtrack puts you inside his vibrating head. A wild car chase is scored to Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride”, and the sound shifts between a fully immersive surround experience and a tinny version playing on one car’s radio. It’s a playful soundtrack that perfectly complements a film that’s playful even when there’s bloodshed.
The special features are all directly ported from the 1999 DVD. All video is in standard definition. Not included from the DVD features are the talent files (which would be hugely outdated) and the film’s trailer.
Commentary by Doug Liman and Stephen Mirrione. Liman and Mirrione talk almost continuously. Their friendship is evident, as is the closeness of their collaboration. Mirrione was editing the film as Liman was shooting it, and they point out many scenes where that arrangement allowed for on-the-spot adjustments or the filming of inserts that would have been impractical or prohibitively expensive with a traditional post-production schedule. Liman goes into detail about Mirrione’s contributions to the finished film, and the commentary is one of the best portrayals I can recall on the symbiotic relationship between director and editor.
Making of Featurette (6:20). Though brief and somewhat superficial, it does provide background on the film’s origins and the general approach of the filmmakers.
Music Videos. “New” by No Doubt, “Steal My Sunshine” by LEN, and “Magic Carpet Ride” by Philip Steir, featuring Steppenwolf. The last of the three has aged the best, because it features the four actors from the Simon/Vegas segment pretending to be the band and doing a reasonably credible job.
Deleted Scenes (25:26). There are 14 scenes, and they were obviously taken from a workprint. They are mostly alternate or extended versions of scenes that exist in the film. There is no commentary on the scenes themselves, but many of them are referenced in the feature commentary.
Trailers. As has become standard practice for Sony, the film’s trailer is omitted, but numerous other trailers are included. They are: The Da Vinci Code, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Ghostbusters Blu-ray, Damages - Season 1, A River Runs Through It and the inescapable promo for Sony on Blu-ray.
BD-Live. The disc is BD-Live enabled, but there was no exclusive content available as of this review.
With its fractured chronology and overlapping narrative, Go might suggest a comparison to Pulp Fiction, but that would be misleading. The film is set in a much more prosaic world, and it lacks the mythic aspirations of Tarantino’s landmark achievement. As a result, though, it doesn’t come burdened with all of Tarantino’s baggage. It’s a swifter, sillier, more light-hearted film. It’s just plain fun.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic BDP-BD50 Blu-ray player (TrueHD decoded internally and output as analog)
Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display (connected via HDMI)
Lexicon MC-8 connected via 5.1 passthrough
Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier
Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears
Boston Accoustics VR-MC center
Velodyne HGS-10 sub
Edited by Michael Reuben - 8/14/2009 at 12:19 am GMT