with Jun Kunimura, Ken Mitsuishi, Masato Hagiwara
Directed by Hideo Nakata
Written by Hisashi Saito
by Chad Van Wagner
Remember when Hong Kong was the new, hot thing? The rise of Jackie Chan, John Woo, Chow Yun-Fat, and other Hong Kong-ites marked a brief triumph for geeks everywhere, and finally, Hollywood had to pay attention to the goings-on of other filmic cultures? Well, now Jackie Chan is making crap with Jennifer Love-Hewitt, John Woo is directing Nicolas Cage bombs, and Chow… well… he’s playing second fiddle to Stiffler from American Pie.
Time for the next wave, and it’s Asian as well, although not as centralized. Japan and Korea are emerging as the places to watch, what with the American remake of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (as The Ring) making a lot more money than anyone expected. Kino Video is at the forefront of this next-big-thingness with their past release of the hyper-gory detective thriller Tell Me Something (from Korea), the stupendously-overrated Shark-Skin Man and Peach-Hip Girl from Japan, and now with Chaos, a pre-Ringu thriller/mystery from Japan’s Hideo Nakata.
While Chaos is quite good in spots, it unwittingly highlights the problem with foreign cultures hitting it big in Hollywood. The truly great films linger in limbo as the rights are snapped up (and retained) for American remakes… which means the studios sit on the originals, for fear of giving away anything. So Nakata’s Chaos is out, but his vastly superior Dark Water remains inaccessible.
This isn’t to say Chaos isn’t worthwhile, it certainly is. Miki Nakatani (Mai from Ringu) is a femme fatale, trapped in a loveless marriage, who turns up missing. But it’s far from a straight kidnapping, as we discover early on that she instigated the whole situation herself. But even that revelation leads to more unexpected twists and turns, and the first half is a slightly confusing but ultimately fascinating (and, at one point, squirm-inducing) ride.
It takes great skill to make this kind of thing work, and Nakata has it. Unfortunately, it takes greater skill to wrap up the flurry of loose ends in a satisfactory manner, and it’s this failing that perhaps kept Chaos from being remade into American theater fodder. The resolution is hardly satisfying intellectually, let alone viscerally, and the viewer, like certain characters, is left feeling cheated. Intriguing for its possibilities, Chaos is an entertaining but ultimately unsatisfying effort. Hunt down the Pang Brothers’ The Eye (from Korea) instead, before Tom Cruise gets his dirty little mitts on it.