Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Christmas, a time of magic and wonder for little Christian children, is just another day to hustle for rent money and rampage around Vegas for others. Go, directed by Doug Liman, traces three intersecting stories of a chaotic Christmas Eve and day. The tales do not lead to holiday redemption but to the realization that the festivities are simply a backdrop and nothing more. The stale cinematic ideal of Christmas miracles is amusingly dashed by this film of desperate situations and unforeseen calamities. The three chapters of the film follow Ronna (Sarah Polley), Sonny (Desmond Askew) and Zack and Adam (Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf) through events in which their best laid plans go completely awry.

Go was released in 1999, the turn of the 21st century, and has aged fairly well. Due to our accelerated culture, aspects of the film are dated or may seem confusing to a younger viewer, such as the reliance on beepers and pay phones, people reading and critiquing the comics page of the newspaper and calling ecstasy by it's original street name, not molly, as people seem compelled to call MDMA now. The casting of this film adds a dash of nostalgia as well. Katie Holmes and Scott Wolf were actors from popular TV dramas at the time and were cast against type. For those who watched Dawson's Creek or Party of Five, seeing these actors given a role not expected of them was cheeky fun. Other actors appear who would come to prominence later; Timothy Olyphant, Taye Diggs, Jane Krankowski and Melissa McCarthy give performances large and small which are memorable and show how bright their futures would become. The soundtrack is also very '90's, including tracks from No Doubt, Fatboy Slim, Air and everyone's favorite tune, The Macarena, dance craze of the decade.

The three stories start in a dingy LA supermarket in which Ronna, Claire (Katie Holmes), Simon, and Mannie (Nathan Bexton) work. Ronna has worked a 14 hour shift as a cashier dealing with bossy, rude customers and just wants to go home. Her home is not going to be around much longer, due to her owing back rent and facing eviction on Christmas day. Simon, her gregarious, obnoxious English co-worker offers her his shift, in order for him to take a road trip to Las Vegas with his buddies. She accepts his shift, in her desperation for money, and here is where the three stories lift off. The first chapter is titled 'Ronna' and follows her travails obtaining rent money, the second chapter is titled 'Simon' and details the lunacy of having an out-of-control Vegas night and the third chapter is titled 'Adam & Zack' delving into the consequences of the duo's lies.

Ronna's chapter presents the story of a poor young woman, using only her cunning to get by. To gain the extra rent money, Ronna decides to pull a one-off drug deal which will ensure her financial security. After much negotiation with a paranoid drug dealer Todd (Timothy Olyphant) for 20 hits of ecstasy, she tries to sell with no success. She is wary of the prospective buyers, flushes the pills and narrowly escapes being arrested in a drug deal staged by the police. Ronna is now doubly screwed, as she has no drug-deal money and also no pills; how to pay back surly Todd? The pharmacy aisle is her answer; substitute antihistamines for the lost pills, pass them off as authentic to Todd and then sell the remainder at a rave to naive attendants. Ronna is crafty; she convinces many at the rave to buy her 'ecstasy', smoke a lot of pot with the fakes to enhance their qualities and the buyers actually believe they are rolling. Ronna then feels financially secure enough to join the rave and steps in to dance the night away. Her relief is short-lived as Todd has figured out her ruse, finds her at the rave and tries to gun her down. As he gets ready to shoot, Ronna is hit buy a car in the parking lot and is propelled into a ditch. Ronna's chapter has ended, bloodied and injured at the bottom of ditch; a terrible ending to a night spent avoiding close calls.

Simon's chapter is that of a young fool who stumbles through the pleasurable absurdities of Las Vegas nightlife. Simon keeps company with Tiny (Breckin Meyer), Singh (James Duval) and Marcus (Taye Diggs who is 800 IQ points smarter than his companions; a peculiar choice of friends for sure) and they descend on a copious casino buffet to begin their wild weekend. With little surprise, Tiny and Singh are sequestered to their hotel room after indulging in too much buffet seafood and Simon and Marcus leave them to explore the city. Simon is quickly bored with gambling, crashes a Jewish wedding, picks up two bridesmaids and is invited to their hotel room for a joint and some hot sex. So hot in fact that the room is engulfed in flames(lesson: smoke pot responsibly) and Simon makes a harried escape. Simon and Marcus then travel to a strip club, via a righteously stolen* sports car, in which Simon causes easily-avoidable trouble. Simon is a walking Id, so of course he can't keep his hands off of the strippers and ultimately shoots one of the bouncers at the club. He and his buddies then make a hasty exit out of Vegas, with the injured bouncer and his boss following behind. Simon, ever the brainiac, was using Todd the surly drug dealer's credit card at the strip club, which helped the employees track him down. As Simon's chapter ends, the aggrieved men from the strip club follow him back to LA to exact revenge.

Adam and Zack's chapter finds them in need of a lot of ecstasy, yet not for a party. The closeted couple(actors on a popular TV crime drama) have struck a deal with law enforcement to wear a wire in order to assist in a drug sting. The officer in charge of the sting operation is Burke (William Fichtner), a man who is itching to bust any big drug deal and who is very off-putting in his familiarity with Adam and Zack. The drug deal to be busted, turns into a bust, as Zack warns Ronna, who is providing the ecstasy to “Go!” and extract herself from the setup. After the failed drug sting, Adam and Zack are cajoled into having Christmas Eve dinner with Burke and his wife. The reason for the overly-friendly and inappropriate manner of the hosts is slowly revealed to the couple; they have been invited to hear a pitch about Confederated Products an Amway-type pyramid scheme! After being subjected to the indignity of a multi-level marketing proposal, Adam and Zack head to the rave and the evening devolves more. Cash-strapped Ronna is in the parking lot pleading with Todd and then, slam, she is hit by Adam and Zack's car. The couple predictably freak out, retrieve Ronna's bloody body and place her on top of a car for others to find her and call an ambulance. They did the “right thing”, as in, they made sure Ronna didn't die, but they aren't going to the cops again. No one needs to be subjected to a pyramid-scheme pitch twice.

The film ends on Christmas morning, with revenge enacted and stock taken of the previous evening. So this is Christmas, working the holiday shift at a crap supermarket. No miracles occurred, only tight escapes and the smallest amount of luck surfaced. The nuanced and humorous performances of the ensemble bring depth to a story that has no rosy Christmas message. In that way Go is a very honest and funny picture of what the rest of us do during the over-hyped holiday. Though there could be one little lesson: don't ever take two hits of ecstasy, you might end up doing the Macarena in the produce section...

*Marcus steals the sports car as a matter of principle. Due to him being a black man who decided to wear a mustard-yellow blazer, he is mistaken as a casino employee by racist casino patrons. As Marcus and Simon exit the casino, a man throws Marcus his keys, assuming he is a valet attendant. That is the last straw for Marcus; he tells Simon, “Get in the car” and they ride off. Racist idiots deserve that sort of comeuppance; it's satisfying.


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