Rated R - Running time: 1:43 - Released 4/9/99

In the glut of mindless teen films out lately, it's nice to see one that has some intelligence to the script. Go, written by John August (God) and directed by Doug Liman (Swingers) is tense and blackly humorous, but violent and disturbing, too; Liman and August are obviously patterning it after the style of Quentin Tarantino.

The film is divided into three parts, depicting the same timeline as seen from three different characters' viewpoints (a Tarantino trademark). The first act, titled "Ronna," tells the story of Ronna Martin (Sarah Polley), a supermarket clerk in L.A. who gets into trouble when she agrees to supply two guys named Adam and Zack (Scott Wolf & Jay Mohr) with 20 hits of ecstasy. Their normal drug connection is Ronna's co-worker Simon (Desmond Askew), but he's gone to Vegas for the weekend with some friends; Ronna is covering his shift. So, against the advice of her friends Claire (Katie Holmes) and Mannie (Nathan Bexton), Ronna goes directly to Simon's supplier, a very sinister young man named Todd (Timothy Olyphant). But when she goes to make the delivery, she senses a trap set by an undercover cop (William Fichtner). She wastes the drugs, but not before Mannie samples some for himself. Then she's in hot water with Todd, and Mannie is tripping the night away.

Act 2, titled "Simon," begins at the same moment when Simon asked Ronna to work his shift for him so he could go to Vegas. It follows him and his friend Marcus (Taye Diggs) on a wild tour of that glittering city. There, he loses his money, has sex with two wedding guests, starts a fire, steals a car, abuses an exotic dancer, and shoots a man before heading home on the lam from the police and some other angry people.

Act 3, "Adam and Zack," shows us their end of the drug deal: a setup with undercover detective Burke (Fichtner) to catch Simon and Todd. The only reason Adam and Zack, a pair of gay lovers who act professionally on the same soap opera, made the deal with Burke is to clear them of their own drug charges. After the abortive attempt to bust Ronna, they end up at Burke's house in a bizarre digression from the story. Eventually, almost all of the above characters attend the same party and each has his or her own harrowing experience.

The acting is very convincing throughout this highly populated movie, and the script has bite and occasional humor. The cleverest thing is the device of following multiple paths through the same time period, but it's been done in Resorvoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, etc., etc.

Surprisingly, the film does not turn out as badly for its numerous characters as it could (and, in fact, probably would if this were a Tarantino film), but I'm not sure this is such a good thing. The message seems to be that drug abuse, life-threatening behavior, and lawlessness have no serious consequences and merely lead to a weekend of fun and adventure. This attitude is made clear in the final line of the film, after all the events of Christmas weekend have played out: "So, what are we going to do for New Year's?" ****

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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