Watch This offers movie recommendations inspired by new releases, premieres, current events, or occasionally just our own inscrutable whims. This week: With Zack Snyder’s Army Of The Dead bringing zombies to the Vegas strip, we’re bringing Vegas to Watch This.
Baggy shirts, hoop earnings, and frosted tips. Knockoff Amway products. A young and very shirtless Timothy Olyphant. All this and more, set to a steady soundtrack of contemporary pop hits—from Fatboy Slim to No Doubt to, yes, “Steal My Sunshine”—piping from stereo speakers in apartments and at raves. There are films that capture the experience of life in late-’90s America better than Doug Liman’s Go. But few trumpeted the pop cultural markers of their era so immediately.
As countless reviews at the time noted, the film is a rough triptych of narratives in the vein of Pulp Fiction. Go begins with Ronna (Sarah Polley) and her fellow slacker grocery-store clerks Claire (Katie Holmes) and Manny (Nathan Bexton) on a drug buy gone south, and ends with a pair of soap-star lovers (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr) in the world’s most awkward sting operation-turned-sales pitch. But the most memorable chapter is the middle one, which follows Ronna’s boorish but charming Brit expat coworker, Simon (Desmond Askew), as he embarks on a trip to Vegas with a trio of friends played by Taye Diggs, Breckin Meyer, and James Duval. The four end up drinking, drugging, gambling, and seducing their way through a night of debauchery that climaxes with Simon shooting a brutal bouncer in a strip club. It’s a long story, told in a hyper-caffeinated style that suits the material perfectly.
Liman had hit the strip before. Swingers, his directorial debut from three years earlier, also included a detour from Los Angeles to Vegas. That movie’s success was what convinced producers that he’d be perfect for the frenetic, one-crazy-night nature of Go. Their hunch was right: The then-fledgling director pours all his tricks into this movie. From sequence to sequence, Liman wildly shifts the camerawork, lighting, editing, and point of view to continually keep viewers off-guard, whether through the near-camp absurdity of a hallucinatory drug trip or the garish, sleazy excess of a night in Sin City. Go keeps reinventing itself as it goes, and that enthusiasm saturates the picture, keeping it moving even when the uglier and more outdated moments threaten to derail the good times. If you find yourself getting bored or uncomfortable with any given scene or storyline, don’t worry: In five minutes, Go will send you someplace new.
The movie zips along so briskly and gleefully that complaints about its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach miss the point. The too-muchness is the point. Go continually delights in piling another log on the fire, seeing how high it can stoke the narrative flames before it singes the viewer. Casual audiences in 2o21 may indeed get burnt here and there, as John August’s giddy and ebullient screenplay periodically stumbles with the odd gay-panic joke or racial humor now painfully past its sell-by date. (Breckin Meyer, of all people, cluelessly spouting a racial epithet in wannabe solidarity with Diggs may be the clearest proof that this a movie from the late ’90s—and certainly one indebted to Quentin Tarantino.) Yet there’s a good-natured quality to Go’s candy-coated hyperreality, with even the violent, revenge-seeking criminals ultimately revealed as easygoing gents. And the motor-mouthed dialogue is still among the best of the Tarantino impressions to emerge in the back half of the decade. Lots of films wear themselves out trying to bottle the zeitgeist-capturing magic of young people spending one long night living life to the fullest. Go trumps them by offering three such stories for the price of one.
Availability: Go is available to stream for free with a subscription to Fubo or Starz. It’s also available to rent or purchase digitally from Amazon, Google Play, Apple, YouTube, Microsoft, Redbox, DirecTV, and VUDU.