Are You With Us?: Go!
By Ryan Mazie
July 19, 2010
Released in 1999, five years after the groundbreaking (or is it celluloid breaking?) Pulp Fiction, Go was a shot of adrenaline to the heart for the corny teen comedies that plagued the late ‘90s. Universally praised (it sits at an extremely high 91% on Rotten Tomatoes), by reading the reviews one might have thought the title of the film was Pulp Fiction: The Early Years. Nearly every critic for better or for worse mentioned the famed Tarantino film – Leonard Maltin calling it “Pulp Ficition-lite.” Even on the back of the film’s special edition DVD cover, one of the quotes reads, “A razor-sharp dark comedy … son of Pulp Fiction.”
Like Pulp Fiction, the film begins at the end, in a diner. We quickly rewind to a Los Angeles grocery store on Christmas. This initial scene is the basis for the whole film. Divided into three segments with three very different perspectives, we continue to go back to that scene where it offshoots into other character’s interrelated stories. While not an original convention, it certainly is effective.
The first story is of the over-worked, under-paid checkout girl Ronna (a terrifically angst-ridden Sarah Polley) who has no money to her name and is facing eviction. In a scheme to make quick cash, she plays drug dealer to two customers looking to score from her co-worker, who is off to Vegas. However, pushing pills is not as easy as it seems when a drug bust, a cheated dealer with a loaded gun, and a friend feeling an ecstasy-induced sickness hound her.
The second story is of the co-worker, Simon (Desmond Askew), who switches shifts with Ronna to party with his three friends (all played amiably by Taye Diggs, Breckin Meyer, and James Duval) in Vegas. As the booze-soaked, cash-strapped, sex-seeking friends hit the town, Simon crosses paths with the wrong bouncer, turning into a comical chase for his life.
The final story, and the least compelling, is of the two customers, gay small-time TV actors Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr). Working off a drug rap by going undercover to bust Ronna and find the main distributor, they question their relationship and Officer Burke’s (William Fichtner at his loosest and funniest) ethics.
With all of the characters faced with life-or-death and jail-worthy problems doused in Pulp Fiction-ian elements of drugs, sex, violence, and commentary on the meanings of everyday things; Go’s dark comedic tone keeps things light and moving. With many quick cuts and angle adjustments, the movie looks as if it is on the titular drug (Go is a common nickname for speed, a partial reason for the title). Director Doug Liman, coming fresh off of his minor hit Swingers, directs with a purpose with little fat in the 102 minute running time. Expertly wielding the three pieces together without feeling repetitive or unnecessary, it turns out Go was originally a short film that was basically to include only Ronna’s part of the movie. This might explain why her segment is the most compelling and fleshed out character-wise.