Friday, April 9, 1999

All the right moves

Movie: Go

Posted on Fri, Apr 9, 1999 at 4:00 AM

****1/2
Our Rating: 4.50

If you're looking for an instantly sympathetic set of heroes, pass "Go," director Doug Liman's complex portrayal of the messy foibles of youth. But if you're ready to accept the idea that truly dumb choices are necessary steps on the path to self-actualization, following this cinematic board game through to its final move will be a hugely rewarding throw of your leisure-time dice.

In "Go," a California grocery clerk's trip to Las Vegas is the catalyst for a frenzy of small-time wheeling and dealing. The impetuous Simon (Desmond Askew) abandons his checkout post to join his buddies on a mini-vacation that becomes a whirlwind of car theft, gunplay and hotel bacchanalia. Left to mind the store is Ronna (Sarah Polley), a cash-poor working girl who decides to earn her elusive rent by taking over Simon's sideline as a procurer of Ecstasy for local rave kids.

The scheme goes awry when Ronna discovers that customers Adam and Zack (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr) are part of an elaborate sting operation. But there's another layer to the duo's subterfuge, a personal involvement that goes beyond their junior G-man status.

The three stories are laid out consecutively, with the same supermarket sequence used as a mutual touching-off point. Tangential relationships between the tales are revealed, and the entire film is bookended by a repeated scene of two people engaged in a coffee-shop discussion.

Sound familiar? It's "Pulp Fiction" all right, but screenwriter John August is bent on sly homage, not crass appropriation. Parlaying the "Pulp" formula into its own graceful animal, he simultaneously parodies and vindicates the concept of filmic influence. Note the casting of Vince Vaughn impersonator Timothy Olyphant as a neighborhood drug lord, a witty jab at Vaughn's complicity in last year's remake of "Psycho."

Rejecting this riveting material as a retread job would be as unwise as dismissing Ronna and crew for their questionable activities. They do what they do out of a combination of foolhardiness and courage that's endemic to the young as well as the young at heart. When a world of possibility is laid out in front of you, you ignore the risks, swallow your fears and hit the gas. You don't stop to ask directions. You just go.

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