Review: 'Go'

April 28, 1999|By JASON MYERS

A supermarket has so much cinematic potential.

For the eye there is the sulphurous glow of fluorescent lights settling upon all manner of things - foods to satiate your appetite, candies and magazines to satisfy your desires, drugs and wines to salve your pains. [cont.from lifestyle] For the ear there is the gregarious din of artificial community - strangers negotiating their rackety carts amidst aisles, the soothing trills of rock songs set to airy synthesizers, the chummy argument over 10 items or less, double coupons, paper or plastic.

It is this final debate that kicks off Doug Liman's "Go," a movie that has the breezy polish of the dairy aisle. A perturbed mother, hair unkempt and child runny-nosed, objects to the cashier skills of Ronna (Sarah Polley). She asserts Ronna has not doubled her coupons when she has, and reacts in severe alarm when she begins bagging: "You can't put bleach in the same bag as food. It's poison."


Listlessly, Ronna removes the bleach, wraps it up in a plastic bag, and places it back within the very same bag of food.

In Liman's world - the home of "Swingers" as well as supermarkets - there is not success, but ascending layers of failure, where the bottom layer is death and the highest layer is life. And in between these layers occur all manner of interactions, most of them lightly comic, some of them grotesquely horrific - and then some that are a surreal blend of both.

"Go" is a more ambitious and moody work than "Swingers," but it has the same easy feel. I felt like I was working as hard as a viewer as Liman did as a director. He has taken several loose strings of narrative and tied them into a knot, and we spend two hours in collaboration trying to uncomplicate what always was rather simple.

If you look at the recurrent visual device that Liman uses, you will understand that he is playing games, not making art.

Ronna leaves her shift, and as she exits the back of the supermarket, she is accosted by Simon (Desmond Askew), her red-headed British co-worker who sells drugs and is as merry as a Teletubby. He begs her to work his shift so he can go to Las Vegas with his friends.

Ronna is fast devising a scheme to score some quick money so she will not be evicted when two handsome, clean-cut men - Zack (Jay Mohr) and Adam (Scott Wolf) - stroll into her check-out line, wanting to buy orange juice and 20 tabs of Ecstasy. The last item is, of course, not normally stocked on the shelves, so Ronna tells them that she will meet them later with the product. The ordeal she goes through as a failed drug dealer comprises a large chunk of plot, during both her chapter and that of Zack and Steve, so I will not give the details away.

I will say that "Go" goes. It has rhythm and an energy that, while frantic, is never grating.

I cannot say so much for Simon, who has to be one of the more annoying characters I have encountered. Askew plays his with a dithery blitheness that verges on the psychotic. When Simon finds a gun in a Ferarri he and his friend Marcus (Taye Diggs) have taken for a joy ride, he twirls it around with the agility and idiocy of a dancing child. When he later is about to be beaten by a strip-club bouncer, he shoots him in the arm. When the bouncer and his father track him back to Los Angeles for retribution, he cheeringly agrees to allow the bouncer to shoot him in the arm - a bicep for a bicep.

Perhaps I have merely had the good fortune never to encounter someone so flippant, but I had a hard time believing a human being could respond to situations as grave or absurd as Simon encounters with the levity he effects. There is nothing too believable in "Go." There is nothing to remember but recycled cinematic techniques and a few caffeinated bubbles of dialogue. I left the theater feeling that my cart was rather empty.

Jason Myers, a Hagerstown native, is a freshman at Bennington College in Bennington, Vt.

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