The Best Movie You Never Saw: Go

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

Welcome to The Best Movie You NEVER Saw, a column dedicated to examining films that have flown under the radar or gained traction throughout the years, earning them a place as a cult classic or underrated gem that was either before it’s time and/or has aged like a fine wine.

This week we’ll be looking at GO…

THE STORY: On Christmas Eve, a young woman (Sarah Polley) tries to score some easy cash by ripping-off a drug dealer (Timothy Olyphant), a group of friends find excitement and danger in Las Vegas, and two soap stars (Jay Mohr & Scott Wolf) find themselves tangled-up with a too-friendly cop (William Fichtner).

THE PLAYERS: Directed by Doug Liman. Written by John August. Starring: Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Taye Diggs, Timothy Olyphant, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf, and William Fichtner.

THE HISTORY: After Quentin Tarantino hit it big with PULP FICTION in 1994, many, many imitators came forth. With movies like THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD, KEYS TO TULSA, SUICIDE KINGS, BOONDOCK SAINTS, TOUCH, TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES N.M, etc, everyone tried to jump on the QT band wagon, to varying degrees of success (some of those movies aren’t half-bad). Arguably the most successful of them was Doug Liman. While SWINGERS was pretty fresh, he never hid the fact that he was influenced by QT, even making light of it in the film when Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau’s crew walks to a party RESERVOIR DOGS-style.

His next film opted for the same non-linear approach as PULP, albeit shoe-horned into a teen genre flick, all of which worked amazingly well, although you would have never known it given how quickly the film left theaters in 1999. It’s one of those movies that owes its cult success largely due to DVD, with it getting a special features-laden edition early in the format’s history. That, and the hip (for the time) soundtrack that included No Doubt, Len (this is the film that popularized “Steal My Sunshine”), Massive Attack (it was one of several films to use “Angel”), Eagle Eye Cherry, Fatboy Slim, etc.

“Go is one of my favorite things that I ever did. Not that I critique myself, but sometimes I'll be passing by the television, and I'll say, "Meh, maybe I would have done that a little different." I can't help [but] do that. But Go was one of those things—I really loved working with Doug Liman. Detective Burke in Go is one of those roles that's about everything I like to do. Really twisted. Potentially funny. A real sort of character-driven oddball. I'm so drawn to things like that. I love parts like that. And Go seems to be the thing that rolled it all into one.” – William FichtnerAV Club Random Roles Interview

Being well-regarded, if not successful, the movie helped boost several careers. Timothy Olyphant, who steals scenes as Todd Gaines the drug-dealer, headlined “Deadwood” a few years later. Sarah Polley was offered the role of Penny Lane in ALMOST FAMOUS shortly after this came out, only to turn it down so she could do an indie in Canada, a sensibility that later led ot an impressive career as a director with AWAY FROM HER, STORIES WE TELL and TAKE THIS WALTZ. Katie Holmes went on to THE GIFT, BATMAN BEGINS and Tom Cruise, while Taye Diggs became a huge heartthrob and, coolest of all, started following me on Twitter.

WHY IT'S GREAT: Last weekend, I was digging through my DVD collection, exploring several potential titles for this column. I came across GO, a movie I’ve always loved but haven’t seen since 2009, when I wrote a five-part-column for the site on the year 1999, one of my all-times faves as far as movies go. Watching it again, I was delighted by the manic intensity of the film, and charmed by how much of a time capsule it’s become. It’s funny, but I always thought of this movie as cutting-edge, and sure enough, for ’99 it was. But, looking at it now the fashions, music, lack of smart phones and Apple products and texting made it feel like a relic from another era – in the best way possible.

“I'm so proud of Go, and especially if it hasn't become clear in this interview, originality and entertaining an audience are two qualities that are so important to me and Go was my first time accomplishing that. I'm so proud of it. It represented me bucking the system. The system did not want me to make Go. And I sort of stood up to the system and made the movie I wanted to make, and the fact that I did that and I'm proud of the movie means I'm really proud of myself when I look back on that.” Doug LimanEsquire Interview

If you want to show someone what life was actually like seventeen years ago, GO isn’t a bad one to throw on. This is especially true if, like myself, you were just coming-of-age around the end of the nineties, early 2000’s. They nail lots of things, like Rave culture, how common weed-smoking and pill-popping was becoming, the latter specifically if you were in the scene, and the fashions, like Olyphant’s frosted tips and sideburns. They even play “The Macarena!”

There are a few things that don’t quite work. One is the attempt to shoehorn in pop culture references like in PULP FICTION, with Olyphant quoting THE BREAKFAST CLUB and so on. Of the three stories, the first one with Sarah Polley is by far the best, although Taye Diggs and Desmond Askew’s Vegas adventure is a close second. Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf’s segment is the most dated, with the arm’s length handling of them being gay dating the film a tad – with the reveal making it seem like this is a “big thing,” which feels quaint now. Overall though, this is a gem. John August’s script and Liman’s direction, coupled with the uniformly great performances make this a highlight of an already great year.

BEST SCENE: One of the funnier sideplots revolves around Nathan Bexton’s Manny, who makes the mistake of overdoing it on Olyphant’s pharmaceutical grade E, spending the rest of the movie “tripping balls.” His psychic conversation with a sage cat is the best.


SEE IT: GO is easily available on streaming and DVD/Blu-ray.

PARTING SHOT: While imperfect, GO is a fun-filled nostalgia trip and a deliriously entertaining look at late-nineties youth culture. For me it ranks as Liman’s best overall movie (with THE BOURNE IDENTITY & SWINGERS just behind it), and it’s a must-see for fans of his.


About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.