To say 1999’s Go takes a page out of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is an understatement. Filled with morally questionable characters and a non-linear narrative of a singular story told from alternating perspectives, this film wears its influence on its intertwining sleeve. And even though the script isn’t as tight as its progenitor, Go is arguably the more accessible of the two. The tales are more intriguing and the stakes are more relatable.
Told from three different perspectives, Go is separated into corresponding acts. The first revolves around Ronna (Sarah Polley), a grocery store clerk who is on the verge of being evicted if she doesn’t come up with over $300 fast. She’s approached by two men, Zack (Jay Mohr) and Adam (Scott Wolf) who want 20 hits of ecstasy for a party that night. Their normal dealer, Ronna’s co-worker Simon (Desmond Askew), is out of town, so Ronna says she can help them out, seeing it as an opportunity to make some money for her rent. She ventures to see Simon’s supplier, Todd (Timothy Olyphant), who agrees to supply the drugs for her.
Telling too much more will spoil a story that relies on many little surprises and turns along the way. The other two plots follow Simon during his trip to Las Vegas, and Adam and Zack as they are invited to Christmas dinner by a cop and his wife. Obviously the three vignettes all connect, but how it’s done is consistently compelling. Amidst all the chaos is Katie Holmes’ character, Claire, Ronna’s best friend who reluctantly gets roped in on this wild ride.
Go never once bores its audience. Long before the hook happens a third of the way through, director Doug Liman brings enough character to the rich material that will intrigue the viewer right off the bat, which is also in part due to a smart script by John August that doesn’t try to cover up its influence. If anything, that transparency helps lay the cards out on the table to better enjoy what’s happening on screen.
The main setback is the lack of likable characters. Everyone except for Claire (for the most part) is terribly irresponsible and it becomes difficult to justify their actions. Go isn’t without a certain charm, but we don’t have anybody viable to hang our hats on either, which seems to be common in movies of this nature. Claire isn’t involved enough to warrant our attachment—in fact, nobody really is. At 102 minutes, this movie both benefits from the brisk runtime while also suffering from the lack of character development that that limitation creates.
Unlike Pulp Fiction, this film features stories that are easier to care about. They feel like they take place in our actual world, rather than some altered version of reality where the ’70s and ’90s merge into one hybrid era—as appealing as that sounds. But Go is unabashedly set in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, utilizing the cultures of those cities so well, and showing how they’re not really that different. The movie oozes late-’90s from its veins and takes on a style of its own, filled with neon lights and house music, blending to form a unique sort of end product in its own right.