★ ★ ★ ★
Doug Liman’s previous effort, Swingers, is one of my favorite comedies of all-time. I think every time a relationship ends, I watch that movie for moral support and to remember that I’m money baby. Anyway, I’d had this film sitting in my queue for quite some time with a definite interest to watch it, but for some reason always passed it over for something else. I’m glad I finally sat down and watched it last night, it was well worth the watching.
The story, by John August, kind of plays out like Pulp Fiction; however, rather than hoodlums and gangsters occupying the intertwining stories, it’s a group of teenagers and 20-somethings. There are three main stories in the film which follow the characters of Ronna (Sarah Polley), who is a cashier at a local grocer who cons a drug dealer; Simon (Desmond Askew), a fellow cashier who gets involved way over his head on a trip to Las Vegas with his buddies; and Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr), a couple of television detectives who are having to help a real detective to get a drug charge dropped. All three of these stories flow into and out of one another in a very cohesive and entertaining script that takes place over the course of one night. There’s comedy, drama and action all bundled into one in this one and it actually pulls it all off quite well.
Like Swingers, Liman shot this film in addition to directing it. It has the same raw quality with lots of handheld shots and a grainy, pushed negative look. For this type of film, that kind of direction and camerawork actually works really well. To me, this is where Liman as a director succeeds the most, and I’d love to see him come back and make some more films like this one and Swingers at some point in his career.
The ensemble cast all do a great job and, as previously mentioned, the script is very tight and solid. I could understand some people not liking the multiple intertwining storyline structure here, but I fall flat for them. I loved it in Pulp Fiction, loved it in Short Cuts, love it in this film and love it in many others. I’ve said before that I feel characters are the real crux of what make good stories and, in my opinion, films like this with large, developed ensembles interacting with each other on multiple levels, makes for a great film.
So, if you like Swingers and think you would like something that is kind of Pulp Fiction Lite, then I would highly recommend this film. It’s not necessarily a deep movie, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to watch.