Forget the traditional Hollywood sophomore jinx. Filmmaker Doug Liman's second venture is "Go," a breakneck, wild ride offering a heady mix of sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and grocery store clerks. Those who prefer their "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" wrapped in a "just say no" message need not waste their time. In Liman's landscape, the twentysomethings just say "Go."
Liman gets off the mark before the studio logo gets off the screen. Immediately we are held captive by a booming baseline. Our heart rates involuntarily follow Liman's beat to a dingy Los Angeles grocery on Christmas Eve. Surly checkout gal Ronna (Sarah Polley) is finishing up a 14-hour shift and about to tackle another eight hours. Do not confuse Ronna with a good Samaritan; she's working those hours because she needs rent money. She's got to come up with $380 or she's evicted. Things turn decidedly better when two actor-types come through her line. It seems they're looking for her co-worker Simon (Desmond Askew) who's taken off to Vegas for the holiday weekend. It seems they're also looking to score 20 hits of Ecstasy for a rave later that night.
Ronna hears opportunity knocking and tells the guys she can hook 'em up. But things do not go as smoothly as Ronna assumes they will. First, Simon's supplier Todd (Timothy Olyphant) isn't so keen on doing business with a nonfriend. Then when he charges her more than she expected, Ronna has to leave her shy friend Claire (Katie Holmes) as collateral until she brings the extra cash back.
Meanwhile, Simon and levelheaded buddy Marcus (Taye Diggs) are cavorting along the Strip in Vegas. Simon is synonymous with trouble, and poor Marcus spends most of his time saving Simon's posterior. Which is a considerable feat since simple Simon's pursuit of fun knows no bounds. In mere hours, Simon has Marcus driving a stolen car, overpaying for a lap dance and running from a strip club bouncer he happened to shoot.
"Go's" third storyline deals with TV actors Zack (Jay Mohr) and Adam (Scott Wolf) trying to score Ecstasy from Ronna. Like the others, Adam and Zack get dragged along by circumstances beyond their control as well as the split-second choices they make.
It's these compelling choices, the cool dialogue and the wild plot twists scripted by first-timer John August that make "Go" such an exhilarating ride. Add to that Liman's kinetic directing style and facility with ensemble casts, and the result is thrilling.
As in "Swingers," "Go" features a lot of fresh faces and fresher talents. Standouts include Polley's Ronna, Diggs' Marcus and feral dope dealer Olyphant. Polley, who appeared in Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter" and is on the brink of big-time success after this movie and her upcoming "Guinevere." Here, Diggs proves he's more than the pretty bod he was in "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." And Olyphant, looking for all the world like a snarly update of '60s teen idol Troy Donahue, makes quite a lovable impression in a hateful role.
While a slew of youth-oriented movies have come and gone, none has quite captured that elusive mix of bravado and invincibility that fuels late adolescence. Until now. "Go" crystallizes that essential adrenaline rush of youth that pushes us all to make less-than-appropriate choices in the name of experience. Though it is blithely amoral, "Go" is never mean-spirited. Those living this heady time for themselves will laugh out loud at the downward spiraling antics of the cast. Those who lived to tell about their own escapades will wince as much as they laugh. Ah,