Font: The silent killer.

STUDIO:  Lionsgate
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME:  106 Minutes
–    Commentary with Director Tony Giglio
–    “The Order Behind Chaos” featurette

The Pitch

It’s like The French Connection meets Inside Man, in that there’s a car chase and a bank heist. In terms of quality it’s more of a crossbreed between Zardoz and The Pirate Movie.

The Humans

Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Ryan Phillippe, Justine Waddell*

“Mr. Statham, there’s a call for you from Guy in London on line one.”
“Er….tell him I’m drying my hair.”
“Sir, you don’t have any-“

The Nutshell

Detective Quentin Conners (Statham) is reinstated from his leave of absence to try and deal with a cunning criminal (Snipes) who is in the midst of trying to pull off an elaborate bank heist** to try and negotiate the release of the hostages contained within. Alongside Conners is young upstart detective Shane Dekker (A Black/Fred amalgam homage to the creators of The Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps? You decide) who is intrigued by comments made by the criminal with regards to the Chaos theory. They are led down a road of treachery, deception and intrigue where nothing is as it seems and everything is telegraphed an act or two in advance, leaving no chance for dramatic tension or audience involvement. CHAOS!

During lulls on set, Ryan was kind enough to let fellow cast members smell his Antitrust residuals.

The Lowdown

We live in strange times for the direct-to-video market. The DIY age of video where anyone can pick up a camera and shoot something has now made its way into the legitimate film market, where the amount of genre pictures being made is outweighing the number of spots open for each studio to try and market them in increasingly cramped movie seasons. Chaos is the type of movie that has a cast that makes you wonder why it didn’t get theatrically released, and a movie that explicitly displays for you why it didn’t. The prevailing feeling one gets from watching Chaos is that it’s not as good as it thinks it is, and it’s not as bad as it should be, partly due to its better-than-your-standard-DTV-flick cast, and partly due to a scope and budget that would seem to be beyond the reach of most films of its ilk. However, the end result is the same unsatisfying feeling one gets from watching DTV action thrillers, the cinematic equivalent of empty calories. It goes down alright, but is immediately forgotten (and may possibly give you violent dysentery at a later date).

The real reason behind the acrimonious split from Reese: the revelation that she wasn’t related to the veteran NBA swingman Clarence, and he’d never get Houston Rockets season tickets.

Always adequate seems to be the film’s motto, fulfilling the requirements that make up a movie; characters, plot, and dialogue shot with a moving camera, all without ever being able to excel in any of these categories, simply settling for a middling level of quality that teeters between acceptable and poor throughout. One performance that doesn’t work within the body of the film for me is Snipes, who is going a little bit too big in relation to the more dialed down attempts at realism that surround him. It’s fun to see him let loose a little bit and have a relaxed screen presence, but not at the sacrifice of the film’s fragile ecosystem. However, no other performance resonates after seeing the film, so perhaps Wesley accomplished a little something by letting out a little inner ham versus the reigned-in nondescript performances from Ryan Phillippe and Jason Statham. Plus, he dresses like a modern day Harold Lloyd for a long stretch of the movie, so he’s got that going for him.

“I’m just a regular fellow; step right up and call me Speedy!”

The film seems to be searching for some level of authenticity and gritty realism that it never manages to reach. The action scenes are competent, not visceral; shooting in Seattle leaves one wondering why they didn’t just take the tax credits and head for the Great White North. It doesn’t do anything visually to distinguish itself from any other heist movie that came before it, and it’s narrative isn’t nearly as breathtaking and genre redefining as it thinks it is, so you’re left with a simple entertainment that is notable for being glossier and more star-studded (or whatever the b-list equivalent of star-studded would be, maybe ‘rhinestone encrusted’?) than the average DTV production, but not for being interesting or worthwhile. It definitely isn’t a blight on humanity like some movies that actually make it to the big screen are, but the constantly shifting plotscape becomes predictable in its constant desire to try and stay ahead of the audience, and eventually loses your interest altogether. Diverting, but not particularly recommended.

Taschen’s newest coffee table book on dead bit actors, while informative, has numerous display issues.

The Package

The cover art is appropriately not good (Statham appears to be burning up in reentry from outer space as he thinks about the ghosts of Wesley Snipes and Ryan Phillippe) and tries to sell the film on cast alone, which is probably a pretty good idea. The transfer is solid if unspectacular and the 5.1 audio is adequate, both complementing a movie that feels a little bit bigger than your standard direct-to-video fare. In terms of bonus features you get a featurette that is pretty much par the course for most releases, and an audio commentary from Tony Giglio for those who wish to spend more time with the film. As a side note, the taglines on both the front (“A STANDOFF WHERE NOBODY STANDS DOWN”) and back (“BETWEEN CORRUPTION AND THE END OF A GUN LIES CHAOS”) are appropriately esoteric for a DTV feature, so kudos to the production company on those.

Wesley’s legal issues are further compounded by his failed attempt to copyright the upcoming ‘Uphill Ice-Skating’ event in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

5.7 out of 10

*Not a resident CHUD contributor with a sex change, unfortunately (depending on your perspective).
**A little side note here: are there no longer bank heists where the goal in mind is to successfully procure money? It seems in every movie, the criminals appear to rob a bank, but are actually diverting attention from the fact that they’ve stolen a rare condor from the local zoo and are selling him on the black market and are waiting for the highest bidder in which event the elaborate tunnel system under the bank that is a holdover from the 30’s will allow them to transport the hostages to an undisclosed warehouse where they’ll be dressed up as nuns and put to sea on a yacht while the criminals slip away undetected. It reminds me of a Roger Ebert quote w/r/t The Jackal: “The Jackal strikes me as the kind of overachiever who, assigned to kill a mosquito, would purchase contraband insecticides from Iraq and bring them into the United States by hot air balloon, distilling his drinking water from clouds and shooting birds for food.”