Saturday, December 06, 2014

Senses Working Overtime: Go

Editor's note: Senses Working Overtime is an occasional series (VERY occasional; there's only been one other entry and that was three years ago) in which I recap movies that didn't get (or warrant) much attention when they came out.

Go (1999)

For some strange reason, 1999 has been resonating with me lately. Part of it is I've been binge-listening to the podcast Serial, which is produced by This American Life and in which host Sarah Koenig digs into the case of a 1999 Baltimore murder. It's garnered a ton of press and I finally checked it out this week; Deb and I both cranked through all 10 episodes in a few days. Anyhoo, it's focused a lot obviously on 1999 and what was happening then around this case.


Coincidentally, just a few days before I started listening to Serial, I watched the movie Go, which I saw not long after it came out in, yes, 1999. That was back when I used to see a fair amount of movies in the theater, but I'm pretty sure I saw it at home, either on HBO or as a rental. It was the third film by director Doug Liman, who had scored big a few years earlier with Swingers. I remember really enjoying it at the time, so when there was a free preview of Starz a few weekends back and I saw they were showing Go in the middle of the night, I recorded it.


Watching it again 15 years later, I was amazed at how much I'd forgotten about the basic plot. Coming out in the late '90s, there were plenty of Tarantino comparisons, especially given the fact that the story revolves around a drug deal from the viewpoints of three different characters in three sections. But unlike a lot of the QT ripoffs of the time, Go manages to establish its own identity. A big part of that is the strong cast: Sarah Polley, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr, William Fichtner, Taye Diggs, Katie Holmes, Timothy Olyphant, Desmond Askew.

Although it's a crime thriller in some respects, Go never gets too serious, which I suppose was another reason for folks to write it off as Pulp Fiction Lite. And like Pulp Fiction (and Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown), the movie has some edge-of-the-seat moments and some hilarious ones. Polley is ostensibly the main character, and indeed I read that screenwriter John August originally wrote a short about her character Ronna but then expanded the story after getting questions about the other characters.

It's a funny, fast-moving flick that was pretty edgy by 1999 standards, anyway, what with all the kids taking the drugs and partying and the like. Of course, being of its time, there are bound to be some dated elements. The film's characters are all excited about one of those crazy rave party things, where everybody's stoned on whatever they could get and dancing with glow sticks and whatnot. I honestly don't know how much of that was cliche by that point; certainly raves had been happening for quite some time. There's a lot of pager use in the film, since cell phones were still rather large and not in widespread use in 1998, when this was likely made. And of course, the soundtrack is full of songs from late '90s alt-rock stalwarts like Len, No Doubt, Eagle Eye Cherry, Fatboy Slim and Natalie Imbruglia. At the time, it probably seemed like they'd lined up some heavy hitters.

It's interesting to consider what happened to the various actors in the film, who were all fairly young. Polley has gone on to a successful career as an indie director, Olyphant went on to star in two of the best TV series ever in Deadwood and Justified and Fichtner and Diggs have worked steadily in both movies and TV. Mohr seemed to be on his way to stardom in '99, having had a stint on SNL and then choice roles in decent movies like Jerry Maguire and this one, but it hasn't quite worked out that way. He still shows up from time to time and has a fairly successful podcast. Holmes was known at the time from her role on Dawson's Creek and made several movies over the next decade, but her biggest move was marrying Tom Cruise and becoming a tabloid spectacle. She divorced Cruise in 2012 and is still trying to rebuild her career. Wolf similarly was a TV star on Party of Five and had hoped to parlay Go into film roles, but it never really happened; he's still a busy TV actor. And Askew, who was good in Go, hasn't done much, at least Stateside anyway. And the film also featured minor cameos from Jane Krakowski and Melissa McCarthy, who would both become more prominent (especially McCarthy) years later.

Go was moderately successful, pulling in $28 million domestically on a budget of $6.5 million. Not a big hit by any stretch, but it made money. And it definitely still holds up as a time capsule from 1999.

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