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Liman's second effort should not be missed

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Directed by: Brian Liman

Starring: Sarah Polley, Jay Mohr, Desmond Askew, Taye Diggs, Katie Holmes

Rated: R

Brian Liman's sophomore effort as a director, "Go," is a dizzily wild ride of a film. It's fast, fun and frantic, and to Liman's credit, he not only directed "Go" but did the cinematography as well. He's as good a shooter as he is a director, and the look of the film is the perfect match for the kinetic energy in the story.

Before I go any further in praising Liman's latest, though, let me get a beef about this guy off my chest.

Liman's first film, the low-budget, widely acclaimed "Swingers," helped fuel what I consider to be two travesties of modern culture. First is the increasingly annoying swing revival. If I hear one more band with "Daddy" in their moniker, threatening to teach me how to jive, I fear I might end up walin' one of these hepcats upside the head.

Jump blues is a classic form of American music and I love it, but why not listen to Cab Calloway, Count Basie or Duke Ellington? At least when British invasion bands like The Rolling Stones covered blues artists, from Muddy Waters to Howlin' Wolf, they were quite vocal about where these songs came from and did a lot to educate an entire generation of Americans about blues music in general.

The second annoying phenomenon is the proliferation of the dreaded college-student martini bar. Now you can call me a stick-in-the-mud old goat, but there is simply no such thing as a (insert any yummy gummy fruity syrupy flavor you can think of here) martini.

Martinis are gin and vermouth, the less vermouth the "drier" the drink. An acceptable substitute is a vodka martini, but the line is drawn there.

So, I've always had sort of a chip on my shoulder when it comes to Liman, but it's a lot lighter after seeing "Go." Even though the form and style are reminiscent of Tarantino in general and "Pulp Fiction" in particular Liman's personal touches make the film his own. The cast, especially Sarah Polley ("The Sweet Hereafter"), is impeccable, and it works together in true ensemble style.

It's Christmastime and grocery store clerk Ronna, played by Polley, is about to be evicted. Her fellow employee, Simon, is off on a road trip to Vegas with some pals and offers her his shift to help her get some extra cash. While filling in for Simon, she meets a couple of guys looking to score some ecstasy, which Simon usually supplies.

Ronna knows the name of Simon's dealer and decides to, as her friend Claire puts it, "move up the drug food chain without permission." She goes to see the dealer but doesn't have quite enough cash, so she must leave some collateral. Claire becomes the collateral.

It's no surprise in a movie such as this that the drug deal goes bad and Ronna finds herself getting in a deeper quagmire at every turn. The first act of the film ends with her being pursued by the gun-wielding dealer and getting run over by a couple of guys in a sports car.

Borrowing from the fractured chronology of "Pulp Fiction" and Kurosawa's classic "Rashomon," the second act of "Go" begins back at the grocery store with Simon offering Ronna his shift. We then follow Simon and his three buddies on their misadventures in Las Vegas.

Again, not much new ground is covered how many countless "misadventures in Vegas" scenes have we seen in the movies by now? But again, Liman's visual style and quirky direction makes it all enjoyable.

Act III starts, once again, back at the grocery store, and this time we follow Adam and Zack, the two guys who want to score the Ecstasy. They turn out to be a couple of TV actors who have been busted for possession and are now being forced to work for a rather sinister cop played by William Fichtner. Exposing his dirty little secret is one of the film's most twistedly funny moments.

All of the stories reconverge at the end and "Go" comes together quite nicely. Thankfully Liman isn't trying to spearhead a music revival of any kind here, and in truth the music in "Go" mostly rave integrates seamlessly into the film. It's an integral part, rather than just a commercial ploy to sell soundtracks or get on MTV.

I know lots of other hack critics are going to use this line, but I just have to say it: Don't pass "Go." It really is one of the most (offbeat) fun films of the past year or two. There is a bit of violence but it's not very graphic. There's a bit of sex, lots of drug references and extended scenes of loud music and wild partying.

If you're offended by these sorts of things "Go" might not be for you, but most folks will probably enjoy the frenetic ride.

(Jim Wunderle works at Associated Video Producers and is a Springfield free-lance writer and musician.)

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