Monday, December 14, 2015

"Go" (A 25 Days of Shitmas Post) from Jason Price of Icon vs. Icon

"You know what I like best about Christmas? The surprises. I mean, it's like you get this box and you're sure you know what's inside of it. You know. You shake it, you weigh it, you're totally convinced you have it pegged. No doubt in your mind. But then you open it up and it's completely different. You know. Wow, bang, surprise!” Those words. delivered by Katie Holmes in “Go,” are exactly what Director Doug Liman delivers with this criminally overlooked gem from the late ‘90s.

Written by John August (“Titan A.E.,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Big Fish,” “Corpse Bride”), “Go” was released in the spring of 1999, and served as Linman’s followup to his wildly popular flick “Swingers.” Boasting an impressive ensemble cast with stars Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, William Fichtner, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr, Taye Diggs, Breckin Meyer, Timothy Olyphant, Desmond Askew , and J. E. Freeman, I have always been surprised the movie didn’t become more of a mainstream hit. It even features the silver screen debut of an adorable, cherub-cheeked Melissa McCarthy, long before she was out destroying childhoods with her role in the “Ghostbusters” reboot. Before you fire up the mock outrage and organize the rest of your torch wielding villagers to burn me to the ground, know I am only throwing that in to rile you up.

Let’s get down to business. If you lived your early to mid-20s like you should have, you know the holidays are the best time to party. Unlike the amateur hours that are Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween, the period of time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day provides the ultimate slow burn for seasoned partiers to spread their wings, fly too close to the sun and make the mistakes they will joyfully remember for the rest of your life. (Don’t worry kids, those stories will come in handy later in your 20s with the ongoing struggle to impress chicks or again in your mid-to-late 30s as you relive your glory days while making a transition to Dad Bod.) In my time alone, the yule provided a motherlode of glorious suburban legends, which live on for generations. That is the concept that fuels Go.” The three separate, yet connected, stories in “Go” are layered in a fashion very similar to what Quentin Tarantino gave us with “Pulp Fiction.” However, the sequences and stories in “Go” rocket along at a much faster pace, bring more humor and offer up genuine surprise around ever corner.

The story kicks off with Ronna Martin (Sarah Polley), who is stuck in a rut as a grocery-store clerk and struggles to avoid a holiday eviction from her apartment. Taking on an additional shift at the store sets in motion a series of events linking all the stories in the film. Ronna decides to raise money for rent by selling 20 hits of Ecstasy to two charming guys looking for a hookup. Snagging a ride with her friend Mannie, her plan leads her to the doorstep of a ruthless (and devastatingly handsome) drug dealer named Todd Gaines (Timothy Olyphant). As we know, Ronna is broke but she is resourceful. To score drugs, she makes a down payment and leaves her pal Claire (played Katie Holmes in a period where she hadn’t quite gotten up the nerve to make a departure from her Dawson’s Creek character but hadn’t been seduced by the charms of the all-powerful Xenu) as collateral. Ultimately, Ronna’s choice to roll the dice by bypassing her sometimes drug dealer and coworker, Simon Baines, to get out of financial distress only muddies the deepening waters. It also leads Ronna to brushes with the law and the inadvertent double-crossing of Todd. Luckily for Claire, being left with a drug dealer as an insurance policy doesn’t end up the way it did for Anton Yelchin in “Alpha Dog.”

Simon (Desmond Askew) is the lovable Brit in the movie. He is a small time dealer who works under street king Todd Gaines. He is also the guy who ditched his grocery-store shift with Ronna, to hit the road with his rag-tag group of friends for their first trip to Vegas — another bad call. Simon and his friend Marcus' (Taye Diggs) evening is no less challenging. The duo end up taking a stolen car on a jaunt to the Crazy Horse Gentlemen's Club. After one of the decade’s more artfully shot lap dance scenes, the action in the film ramps up exponentially! The strip club outing quickly goes horribly off the rails, as they often do, when Simon is overly touchy feely with one of the strippers. This leads to gunplay and a cross-town car chase with some local thugs that doesn’t disappoint.

Flash forward (or backward as is often the case in this film) to the two charming fellows named Adam and Zack (Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf) for whom Ronna was scoring the ecstasy for at the start of the film. It turns out charm comes from their work as soap opera actors. Their desperation to score comes from more than a need to party it up at the Mary Xmas warehouse party everyone has been buzzing about during the film. (Who wouldn’t be excited? It’s 1999! It’s Christmastime and the Mary Xmas warehouse party! “Traci Lords is one of the promoters. That’s what I heard.” “My friend Claire here says it’s going to be a kickass fucking time.” It’s what the Catalina Wine Mixer would grow up to be!) It turns out the duo accidently/on purpose sucked Ronna into their unfortunate series of events in an attempt to divest themselves of a drug-related charge by participating in a sting. Ronna narrowly dodges a felony from Officer Burke, one of the most unique cops ever brought to film, played by the criminally underrated William Fichtner. Though Adam and Zack did what they were instructed, we soon find out Burke has ulterior motives for the two and invites them over for an early Christmas dinner with his wife (Jane Krakowski). Complications ensue. At this point, all the stories start to tie together. To avoid spoilers, which would potentially put a damper on your holiday viewing experience, I encourage you to seek out the film and experience the resolutions for yourself.

As I said earlier, with the ensemble cast, the quick-witted dialogue and expert placement of pop culture references, I am almost shocked this film doesn’t have a bigger cult following than it does. At least two elements likely put a damper on its short and long term success. First, it was a smaller film going up against films such as “The Matrix,” “Never Been Kissed,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “Analyze This” and Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence's long forgotten buddy flick, “Life.” It was hard times for a smaller film. Secondly, the poster art and box art for the release is criminally atrocious. It features Sarah Polley front and center with fairly unflattering shots of Katie Holmes, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf and William Fichtner bringing up the rear. The tagline on the poster is “Life Begins at 3 a.m.” Look, let’s be honest. No one looks good at 3 a.m. and this artwork is a testament to that fact. The designer clearly had his beer goggles on when putting this one together. One of the other elements working in the film’s favor is its soundtrack which featured jams like No Doubt’s “New,” Len’s “Steal My Sunshine,” Fatboy Slim’s “Gangster Tripping” and the Philip Steirs remix of the Steppenwolf classic, “Magic Carpet Ride.”

No Doubt ~ New

The film ends with Nathan Bexton’s Mannie character (who didn’t get a proper mention earlier in the review as his character was not conscious for most of it from a near fatal drug overdose. Not to take anything away from his mind-blowing, drug infused, grocery store dance scene) asking, "So ... what are we doing for New Years?” After screening the film again, I am totally intrigued by this question. I would love to see where these characters would end up on New Year’s Eve 20 years later. Perhaps a Kickstarter campaign is in order. I mean, the flick is currently rated 92% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, almost 17 years after its initial release. That’s bananas!

In closing, “Go” is a ‘90s gem that has stood the test of time. It doesn’t feel dated and, most importantly, it still delivers with solid performances from some familiar faces, a healthy dose of action, unexpected laughs and a well-woven storyline. Be sure to add it to your wish list this holiday season. — Jason Price

You can follow Jason’s ongoing adventures at Icon Vs. Icon - Your Source For All Things Pop Culture (, where he churns news, reviews and weekly interviews with random stars from yesterday, today and tomorrow. Connect with him on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He can also be heard weekly on the Acid Pop Cult Podcast (available twice a week on iTunes!).



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