Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Go Is Not A Completely Dumb Teen Movie!

The Good: Surprisingly well put together, Decent acting, Lines of dialog
The Bad: Annoying, idiotic characters, Low opinion of youth culture
The Basics: If you want to watch young people use drugs, hang out, get into pointless chases and otherwise use bad judgment, Go is the perfect film for you.

"Teensploitation" is a word that has recently made it into the dictionary. It refers to any film or work that exploits young people as a crucial element of selling the movie, television show or lip gloss. Basically, it is the name for the whole genre of movies that tries to explore what being a young person is. It's a weird word and I am surprised it made it into the dictionary; it seems like more of a fad than a word with any real staying power. Nevertheless, there it is and I thought of the word as I sat down to watch the DVD of Go.

I honestly did not have high expectations for this movie. When I watch it again, which I will, I am bound to watch it with higher expectations than I had the first time around. Go is the teensploitation version of Pulp Fiction.

Told in three parts, in roughly chronological order, this is the story of three groups of people and their adventures over the course of a single night and how they all come together. It is the story of Ronna, who is about to be evicted from her apartment, so she goes along with a plan to score some ecstasy for some strangers and discovers that she can make a killing selling chewable aspirin and diet pills to posers at a rave. It is the story of Simon, a drug dealer who takes off for Las Vegas for a night and ends up on the run after putting his hands on a stripper. It is the story of Adam and Zack, a pair of gay actors who have ended up at the mercy of a police officer named Burke, who uses the two to set up Simon and instead end up setting up Ronna.

The three stories come together when Ronna is almost killed at the rave, Simon heads back to Todd's (his supplier) house to find Todd selling him out and Adam and Zack discovering they are cheating on one another with the same man. All with hilarious consequences.

Okay, the consequences are not hilarious. In fact, it is troubling how downright stupid just about every character in this movie is. Even the goody-goody Claire uses drugs, so it's hard to find real empathy in any of these characters. They are all weak-willed or flat out stupid and John August (the writer) and Doug Liman (the director) have a very low opinion of youth and their level of judgment. Claire, who seems intelligent and morally-upstanding at the beginning, allows herself to be used as collateral to Todd, uses speed, and ultimately uses her wits to arrange the almost moronic - though funny - resolution of the dilemma of Simon.

Simon is a flat-out idiot and it is problematic that so much time is spent on his character. He is not interesting to watch, yet a third of the film - at least - is his story. Simon is a loser drug dealer and it is hard to feel any empathy for his buffoonishness. Even worse, on the trip to Vegas, he is accompanied by Tiny (in a baffling element, Breckin Meyer, who played Tiny is one of the top-billed credited actors of this movie!) and Singh who are such worthless, pointless characters that they are dispatched at the earliest possible moment.

Indeed, throughout the Simon section of the movie, it is Taye Diggs' character Marcus that steals the scenes. He is interesting, reasonably intelligent and it is a shame that he was not worked into the script better. In fact, he is such a cool character, one wonders why he is hanging around such losers as Simon and Tiny. As well, seeing more of Marcus and his reactions to the hicks he runs into in Vegas would have given the movie Go a bit more depth and genuine character.

Finally, the Adam and Zack portion of the movie is interesting, but not enough to resolve the film. In fact, after their altercations with Burke and their hunt for Jimmy, their mutual lover, they disappear and the movie becomes about tying it all together. That is done by using Claire and Todd, but it is done without giving the pair a full section of their own (as Ronna, Simon and Adam and Zack are given).

What makes the film even remotely viewable is the dialog and the acting. The dialog is often funny. In fact, listening to the posers Ronna sells fake drugs to is funny as are Ronna's exploiting others the way she is exploited when she goes to get the drugs from Todd. There is a lot that is funny and the lines are well delivered.

The cast is pretty impressive. Sarah Polley does a good job of getting the viewers into the world with her strange, almost bland performance of Ronna. Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf are energetic as Zack and Adam. Katie Holmes, cute as ever, plays Claire with an interesting combination of coyness, intelligence and reason, which fails only in the writing of the character. And Timothy Olyphant portrays Todd with a wonderful mix of menace and style that makes the drug supplier one of the more interesting and watchable characters in the piece.

The film, however, is stolen by two actors: Taye Diggs and William Fichtner. Diggs plays Marcus as cool and levelheaded. He uses his limited time on screen to create a sage character that is interesting and slick. He plays the role with a looseness that is cool and he emanates an air of style. He brings a real sense of professionalism and character to the middle portion of the movie.

It is ironic, then, that in a teensploitation movie, the notable actor would be William Fichtner, who was in his forties when the movie was made. Fichtner plays Burke and he makes the role into something that is uncomfortably sleazy. Fichtner makes Burke a potential menace to Adam and Zack with leering and a wonderful control of eye movements and body language. He is a master and when his character's motives are revealed, the build-up that Fichtner has created using his tone, body language and movement, the result is one of the funniest in the work.

But, in the end, Go is probably not worth your time. Why? None of the characters are good. I am a person who loves characters who live in shades of gray or are outright evil. The problem here is there is no reference point, they are all gray and they create a piece that is more murky than interesting. None of the characters are completely likable and as a result, much of the movie hinges on individual lines and fails to come together as a piece worth repeated viewings.

The plus side? If you are into teensploitation, this gives you pretty much everything you might want, assuming you figure all teens use drugs and are incapable of ever using good judgment. And the DVD has a surprising number of extras for such a mediocre movie.

For other works with William Fitchner, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Date Night
The Dark Knight
Mr. And Mrs. Smith


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2005 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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