Lionsgate // 2005 // 106 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // February 19th, 2008
A standoff where nobody stands down!
Rainy night hostage situation on a bridge in Seattle, and tough cop Quentin Conners (Jason Statham, The Transporter) and his partner make a dreadful miscalculation when trying to bring in a gunman who's kidnapped a senator's daughter. Conners is suspended from the force, and his partner is fired.
While Conners endures his forced vacation, a bunch of hoodlums clumsily hold up an international bank and take a bunch of hostages. This is another one of those in-broad-daylight things where a bunch of guys in long black trenchcoats and do-rags get out of a black car with heavily tinted windows, stroll in slow motion into the crowded bank, throw on masks, and start shooting at the rafters to get everyone's attention. If I'd seen this crew approaching, I would have given up my place on the teller line and bolted for the nearest ATM. This is probably why I have so little first-hand knowledge of brazen mid-day hostage crises.
Anyway, once the hostages are hostagized and the police show up, the leader of the baddies -- the ever-subtle Wesley Snipes (The Art of War) -- gets on the phone with the cops, and using one of those voice-altering gadgets so popular among movie criminals, demands that Conners be the hostage negotiator. Wanting to avoid the bad press that comes with bank customers being shot in the head and tossed on the sidewalk, the police agree, and soon Conners has his suspension suspended and is partnered with a new cop, the boy-scoutish Detective Shane Dekker (Ryan Phillippe, The Way of the Gun).
Unfortunately, the wily Wesley seems always to be a step or two ahead of the good-cop, bad-cop team, and he leaves some tantalizing clues that suggest that this is no ordinary bank heist. Sure enough, a rescue attempt that Conners orders goes south, and the culprits get away. But an inspection of the bank reveals that nothing has been taken.
Why, then, did these leather-clad hooligans go to all this trouble? Well, there's this whole, convoluted explanation and red herrings piled on red herrings, and lots of hints dropped by the Snipes character about the "Chaos Theory," a term used in math and science to describe seemingly random events that actually have a defined structure.
Now, I'm no rocket scientist, and my Master Criminal days are long behind me ("Looking for these towels, Mr. Motel-6?"), but why in the world would anyone try to pull off a crime that leaves the police baffled and then start providing clues? And how lucky is the Seattle PD that they have Detective Dekker on the case -- a guy who actually knows what the "Chaos Theory" is and can identify the Chaos Theorists whose names the bad guys cleverly co-opt as their noms de crime?
And if you think about it, couldn't this tangential link between happenstance and the success of the caper apply to pretty much any crime story?
To its credit, Chaos ends up being more intriguing than a routine action film that offers a simplistic plot as a clothesline on which to hang scenes of people and things blowing up. Unfortunately, while director/writer Tony Giglio has some cool ideas, he doesn't make them dramatically interesting. The complicated plot and its attendant twists are, for the most part, explained to us by other characters, mainly Phillippe's conveniently educated detective. The more we learn about what's really going on, the less the previous scenes make sense. There are a few attempts to give us characterization -- a past love affair between Statham and another detective, discussions about Phillippe's character's father having been a hero cop -- but these really go nowhere.
Action scenes pop up sporadically, and they are well shot and directed. Using Seattle as a backdrop is a nice change from the overused New York/LA/Chicago-type locations. According to Giglio, he was trying to emulate the look of '70s cop films such as The French Connection, and it works. Chaos is shot mostly with handheld cameras, giving the film a nice, modest-budget look and feel, eschewing the high-gloss, antiseptic style often found in "gritty" police procedurals.
Lionsgate has given us a typically good package, with a strong picture and audio options. Tony Giglio offers a surprisingly good commentary. He is extremely articulate and passionate about his work without being pretentious. His commentary runs the length of the film and is never dull or repetitive. There's also a short, unremarkable "Making of" feature with Giglio and Snipes.
Chaos isn't a great movie, but it's entertaining and manages to keep you off-kilter for much of its running time. While the film is ultimately too clever for its own good, Giglio gets points for trying to smart-up the genre.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Commentary with Director Tony Giglio
* "The Order Behind Chaos"