Directed by Doug Liman
Starring Sarah Polley, Desmond Askew, Taye Diggs



Here's my question: What's a nice girl like Sarah Polley doing in a mess like Doug Liman's new film"Go?" Polley, whose ethereal beauty and open heart were the strongest and most moving things in "The Sweet Hereafter," somehow manages to keep her head above water in this derivative, overblown and underthought homage to "Pulp Fiction."

For the record, "Go" is three interlinked tales that, like Tarantino's, begin and end in the middle, with excursions both fore and aft. Polley is Ronna, a Los Angeles supermarket clerk in desperate need of rent money, who takes on a drug deal for an English coworker, Simon (played by Desmond Askew, who reads his lines with the dogged determination of someone who's never seen a script before but doesn't want to let that stop him). Askew and three friends, meanwhile, are on their way to Las Vegas for a weekend of fun and games, which end up involving a torched hotel bedroom, a car chase, a bullet wound, and a fair amount of vomit. Of the gang of four, only Taye Diggs, as Marcus, the black member, has any kind of screen presence, and two of the film's few witty moments involve whites at the Las Vegas casino treating him like a) a men's room attendant, and b) a car-park valet.

We leave them on their way back to L.A. and pick up yet a third group, this time a pair of entrapped gay lovers who are forced by a detective to wear a wire into the supermarket and make that drug deal with Simon -- the deal that Ronna takes on in order to get the rent money. Since the whole deal involves just twenty tabs of Ecstasy, the inventive Ronna, sensing she's trapped by the wired guys and their bizarre police master, dumps the drug, replaces it with hits of allergy medicine and baby aspirin, and makes a killing at a local rave from all the stoned participants.

If the film had just stayed with Ronna and her adventures in drugland it might have had at least a bit of the charm of the Travolta-Thurman segment of "Pulp Fiction." As it is, there are a few nice moments, involving her friend and driver Timothy Olyphant, who helps himself to a couple of tabs while driving Ronna around, and then undergoes two transforming experiences -- the first is a wild macarena dance at the supermarket, and the second is a confrontation with a mind-reading black cat. But all the wit is lost in the endless screeching of wheels, the weakly-written dialogue, and the poor acting.

The film was written by John August and directed (and shot) by Doug Liman, whose first film, "Swingers," of a couple of years ago was an indie favorite. I've always subscribed to the theory of the sophomore jinx, which says that one's second effort -- second year in baseball, second novel, second whatever -- is in most cases going to be weaker than the first, but that the third effort will be sublime; it's kind of a Marxist dialectic, or a thesis-antithesis-synthesis view. In this case, though, I'll make an exception.