‘Go’ Review: Dir. Doug Liman [Alternative Christmas]

The year 1999 was an excellent year for premium movies with Go sitting firmly towards the top of that pile. There might have been tough competition from The Matrix, American Beauty, Memento, Fight Club, and The Blair Witch Project, but Go still managed to make several movie magazines’ end-of-year ‘Best of’ lists, and it’s easy to see why.

Before eventually progressing into the high-stakes, big budget action movie arena, director Doug Liman was the master of ‘cool’ indie films. His second film, Swingers, caught the attention of the film world, and helped not only launch his own career, but that of stars Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. For me though, it was his third feature film, Go, that caught my attention. Set over the course of Christmas Eve, the story charts the journey of several Los Angelenos from different perspectives. Go goes hard into the non-linear narrative structure and by flitting from character to character, it generates the most compelling way of telling its simple story.

With it’s young cast, Go could be overlooked as just another teen movie, but there’s much more to it than that. The film has darkness and pathos alongside the lighter moments of humour and good-looking cast. Although not the first of its kind, Go helped to push more teen-centric stories away from the traditional coming-of age drama or comedy approach. It doesn’t forget either component, but when mixed with the aspects of crime thriller it created a fresher story, one that connected with audience members much older than its younger cast of characters. Go also helped pave the way for more hip teen dramas such as The OC (whose first season was executive produced by Liman, who also directed the first two episodes himself), forever changing the landscape of teenage television.

Though not type of Christmas Eve that most will recognise, Go highlights the party scene familiar to those that were old enough, or on the cusp of being able, to drink. Alcohol and drugs play a key role in the narrative and whilst there are plenty of shots of people having a good time, Liman’s films also makes sure to pose several cautionary tales about how they can be bad for us.

The choice to tell the narrative from the viewpoint of three characters can be easily attributed as having been inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, but it’s a devise that really works for the piece. The ever changing vantage points add extra spice to the story as a whole and allows Liman to demonstrate abilities that cross multiple genres. Simon’s story for example, holds the humour, whereas Ronna’s houses some dark elements.

The cast is an eclectic bunch of misfits, and although their star power may have dwindled from some, most remain in the public domain. The majority are still working today and Go is a highlight on everyone’s resume. As compelling and entertaining as everybody is, it is William Fichtner that absolutely steals the show. The scenes between his character of Burke, Zach and Adam are hilarious. Timothy Olyphant is also worthy of a shoutout for his work as drug-dealer Todd, the character providing a clear foundation for his later role in The Girl Next Door. Liman compliments the cast’s hard work and John August’s zippy script with some excellent camera work. The director shot the film himself and his vision for this world is 100% his, and though it might fit heavily into the style over substance aesthetic, Go looks cool as Hell.

A hip, cool, and an occasionally harrowing portrayal of poverty, excess, and the bond of friendship Go remains a modern cult classic. Hopefully with the film having recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary, a snazzy blu-ray special edition isn’t too far away.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Go is available to rent on Apple TV now.