Go Blu-ray Review

Today, it seems so 1990’s for films to be heavily inspired by (i.e. copy) Pulp Fiction as it has pretty much been done to death. But Go (1999) was made when Quentin’s influential flick still cast an assuming shadow over popular cinema. Director Doug Liman (Mr and Mrs Smith, Jumper) followed his sleeper hit debut, Swingers (1996), with a multi-pronged narrative telling three stories that in super vogue Tarantino style overlap at critical junctures, have no shortage of self-aware hip dialog and rely heavily on a groovy selection of tunes. Go may never amount to more than the sum of its parts, but those parts are often witty, darkly comedic and entertaining.

Where to begin… let’s start with Ronna (Sara Polley) who is on the verge of being evicted on Christmas unless she comes up with several hundred dollars. Luckily, or totally contrived as the case may be, soap opera stars (played by Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr) arrive at the grocery store where she is a clerk wanting to buy ecstasy from her coworker Simon (Desmond Askew) who happens to be in Vegas. Ronna knows Simon’s drug contact Todd (Timothy Oliphant) and in true entrepreneurial spirit attempts to earn rent by procuring the illicit substances.

This leads to events involving a Xmas eve rave, a botched police sting and a hit and run which overlaps with Simon’s story in Vegas highlighted with tantric sex, food poisoning and a strip club shooting. Then there are the soap stars who…well I will stop here before cataloging too much of the film’s idiosyncratic happenings. A hefty suspension of disbelief is definitely required to accept that so many intriguing turn of events befall our cast in one day’s time and, through contrived happenstance, they are connected at least in some minor ways.

What keeps Go from being memorable in true Pulp Fiction style is that the majority of the characters are not interesting enough to be really likeable or noteworthy. I do not mean that they are necessarily dislikeable (well a few purposely are) but most of the time the antics transpiring are more absorbing than who is involved.

A notable exception is William Fictner who turns in a great performance as a cop who has hilariously ulterior motives with the aforementioned daytime TV stars beyond his legal obligations. Without giving away details, the misdirection employed results in some creepily comedic moments.

Ten years after release, Liman’s sophomore endeavor is not necessarily his best known (and he seems to have moved onto the higher profile action genre) but has become a worthy footnote in late 1990’s film history. I am not arguing this is a travesty that needs to be redressed as I rarely put in the effort to watch Go. Yet I always enjoy when I do; I just do not think about it much afterwards. And such was my recent experience upon reacquainting with the film which is still an interesting way to waste 100 or so minutes of your life.

And now Go arrives on Blu-ray from Sony with a reserved high-def transfer and pretty decent audio. Sadly the extras are all retreads from the DVD edition with only the commentary being worth an effort.

My gut response to Go’s 1080p Blu-ray video was mild disappointment. The image is rather flat with a subdued palette that I am guessing is the intended look. The original 2.40:1 ratio is maintained with a very clean transfer sporting noticeable but rarely obtrusive grain throughout. Once I got myself accustomed to the texture of the video, I was able to appreciate its strengths that include good detail, stable color reproduction (the rave scenes have some pop to them), strong contrast and no obvious digital tampering. While the BD image in general lacks eye catching depth, it easily bests the DVD that is really showing its age with overall softness, much less accurate colors and compression artifacts.

Music is integral to the film’s feel and gets served up very nicely in the English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD (48 Khz) surround mix. From techno artist BT’s pumping score (with some floor rattling bass) to highlighted tracks by LEN or Fatboy Slim (Go’s song selections were arguably as popular as the film), your sub and rears will get put to good use.

Dialog is the music’s main competition and is also done up right with a crisp reproduction from the center channel. The deficit of the surround mix comes from being spoiled by today’s soundtracks that offer more precise ambiance. Some of the pans come off clumsy and the rears sometimes seem mixed a bit too prominently for environmental effects that can be distracting. Luckily the movie is so briskly paced, you will not have time to dwell any deficiencies in the audio which is pretty good for the most part.

Additional audio is offered as Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mixes with optional subtitles in English (SDH), French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Commentary – Director Doug Liman and editor Stephen Mirrione offer up the only extra of worth in the form of a feature length commentary that was done for the DVD edition, so there is no mention of Liman’s more recent action flicks. The information provided is very engaging for background context and is much better at digging into the “making of” Go than the lame featurette included.

The two contributors have a great camaraderie and joke around to balance out the track’s feel. Highlights include fighting with the studio to keep the “independent” feel, going to raves for research, how neither does drugs but get many compliments on how well they captured the experience of ecstasy and the use of music. Well worth a listen for fans.

Making of Featurette (6:20) – The name says it all. This is 100% promotional fluff and not worth your valuable six minutes and change.

Deleted Scenes (25:26) – 14 scenes are presented that are mostly alternate/extended takes. Video quality is very poor as is the majority of the content. These unfortunately are not hidden gems but are takes we should be glad got edited down or deleted. I will say the short conversation with Simon explaining to Marcus why he loves America and guns was an amusing exception.

Music Videos (11:50) – Music videos for three songs from the soundtrack (Len – Steal My Sunshine, Philip Steir – Magic Carpet Ride, No Doubt – New). I really dig the songs (and they work well in the movie) but the video and audio quality is weak which does not make for that satisfying of an experience (you would get comparable quality from YouTube). You are better off enjoying the tracks in the context of the movie with the lossless audio.

BD-Live – As of this writing, there is no exclusive content for this title.

For my tastes, Swingers or the Bourne Identity are better Liman flicks. Still, Go has enough going (pun intended) for it as a Pulp Fiction rip off that is never short on witty dialog or a hip soundtrack. What the film lacks in originality, it makes up for in escapist entertainment value.

Sony brings Go to Blu-ray with faithful high-def video and thumping audio. The extras are the Blu-ray’s weak spot with recycled DVD content that mostly is a let down. Luckily the commentary still holds up well a decade on. As is the case with many catalog releases on BD, if you are a fan, this is worth an upgrade for the improvement in a/v quality though you will never mistakenly think you are watching a Pixar movie.

– Robert Searle

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