Let me take you back several years to an auditorium in Austin, Texas where a crowd was gathered for a South by Southwest Film Festival screening. Before entering the hall, some people from the film's promotional department had distributed tiny sticks which, when cracked, would glow like radioactive waste. A single word was printed on these glow sticks: "Go." When the lights in the hall went out, and the movie was about to begin, all the glow sticks were cracked and people started waving them around wildly. Everyone was very excited as the movie (a nifty little indie set in and around a rave) began.
The movie, if you haven't guessed it by now, was 'Go,' Doug Liman's sophomore film and his second set in an underground Los Angeles counter culture (his first film was 'Swingers'). I loved the movie when I saw it many moons ago at SXSW (this was right after it had made a splash at Sundance) and I still love it today.
'Go' is about a group of friends, a lot of drugs, and one very long night.
A post-'Pulp Fiction' indie comedy-hybrid, the film is told from three points of view. We see one side of the story, then we rewind back to another point where the characters intersect, and veer off into a divergent story. The characters we follow are: Ronna (the always-amazing-even-in-the-iffy-'Dawn of the Dead'-remake Sarah Polley), a cash-strapped young girl working in a supermarket who, at the insistence of a couple of television actors desperate for a good time (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr), looks to score a bunch of Ecstasy tablets from a scary drug dealer (played by Timothy Olyphant). She soon realizes she's going to be busted by the cops, so she ditches the drugs, soon earning her heat from the law and said scary drug dealer. That's plot 1.
Plot 2 follows Simon (Desmond Askew, who looks like he's related to 'Mad Men's Jarred Harris), a coworker of Ronna's who is on vacation in Las Vegas for the weekend. He's usually the actors' supplier, so his absence forces Ronna into business. While he's in Vegas with his buddies (including an amazingly hysterical Taye Diggs), he gets into similar trouble, this time with a couple of low-level mobsters and strip club owners.
Plot 3 (if you're worn out just reading this, then this probably isn't the movie for you) concerns the two actors, as they become increasingly entangled in a sting operation set up by a slimy cop (played by William Fichtner).
How will these plots converge? Who will make it out unharmed? What surprises await the characters in "Go?" Well, there are a lot of surprises, actually. Half the fun of the movie is watching the way it all unfolds, and even if you've seen the film a few times, it still seems fresh and original.
Doug Liman's energetic direction, the great soundtrack full of club-worthy dance tunes (which don't sound as horribly dated as you'd imagine), and it's amazing "before they were stars" cast, make 'Go' a wonderful and charming little dark comedy, which has aged surprisingly well. While not the revelatory experience of some of the other truly groundbreaking films of 1999 (just think back to that year: 'Magnolia,' 'Being John Malkovich,' 'Election,' 'Fight Club,' 'The Iron Giant,' 'The Matrix' - what a year!), it has held up and remains a truly charming movie that's equal parts Quentin Tarantino and John Hughes.
'Go' comes equipped with a workmanlike MPEG-4 AVC 1080p (2.40:1 aspect ratio, expanded slightly from its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio) transfer on a 50GB disc. This wasn't exactly a gorgeous-looking movie to begin with, with a shaky, mostly handheld look throughout. Grain is constant, but not distracting. (More annoying than grain on this Blu-ray is the abundance of clarity, particularly when you can now notice a lurking camera crew in the reflection of some elevator doors, as happens here. I could have lived my whole life without seeing that guy with the camera and the boom mic. Now that I've seen it, I can't un-see it.)
Anyway, detail is a marked improvement over previous releases, ditto skin tones (of which there are many - this is a wonderfully, organically multi-cultural cast). Blacks are deep and inky, and even the smokier sequences, whether in a Christmas-themed rave or a strip club, look crystal clear. Colors (glow sticks, Taye Diggs' electric canary yellow jacket) really pop.
There are no technical issues to bog down the disc, either. And while this is far from a reference-quality transfer, it's a sharp and considerable improvement over previous home video releases. If you're not bothered by a fair amount of grain, then this is a very nice transfer indeed.
It should be noted that the movie is Region "A" locked and BD-Live enabled.
'Go' has a similarly solid but unspectacular audio portion with this Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless mix. Consumed by most of the mix are the bouncy dance songs, which thump along with a heavy emphasis on bass.
What's nice about the songs in this mix is that they're loud when they need to be, sometimes overwhelmingly so, but slide into the back of the sound field when they need to, letting us enjoy the crisp, clean ratatat dialogue when it takes center stage.
Elsewhere on the mix, there are some nice atmospherics. When certain characters do some very bad things (let me just say one person gets hit by a car, immediately followed by the removal of the evidence in a thunderous rainstorm), the surround channels really come alive. Everything - sound effects, dialogue, score, songs - are well balanced and prioritized. Just like the video, its unspectacular but does the trick just fine.
Also included on this disc are French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes as well as subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
All of these special features are left over from the original DVD. It would have been nice to have some new special features, especially since the movie is now ten years old! I'd love to hear Doug Liman, coming off of his trio of big-budget studio movies ('The Bourne Identity,' 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' and 'Jumper') talk about what it was like when he was just running around Los Angeles and Las Vegas with a minimal cast and crew. Ditto screenwriter John August, who produced 'Go' as part of his thesis project for film school and has become one of Hollywood's most in-demand writers. Sadly, that's not the case. There are also some previews for other, totally unrelated titles (including the first season of 'Damages'), but no trailer for 'Go.'
'Go' is a charming little dark comedy that has aged well in its ten years (well, besides one of the characters carrying on about her pager - I guess it was the typical accessory of the drug dealer at the time). 'Go,' as directed by future 'Bourne' originator Doug Liman, has an abundance of energy, fine performances, and a fun, twisty structure. The workmanlike audio and video and lackluster, antiquated special features keep this from being a must own (unless you love the movie as much as I do), but it still ekes by with a highly recommended distinction.