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Original Title:

Japan 1999


Hideo Nakata

Miki Nakatani
Masato Hagiwara
Ken Mitsuishi
Jun Kunimura

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Story: Saori (Miki Nakatani) goes out dining with her husband Komiyama (Ken Mitsuishi), a successful businessman. Just a moment before her husband, Soari leaves the restaurant and suddenly disappears. A few hours later, Komiyama gets a call from a man, who claims to have abducted his wife. He wants a ransom and arranges a place of delivery. The husband calls the police and because of this the deal is canceled...
It turns out, that the whole thing is a fake abduction. Saori wants to test her husband how much he still loves her. As the kidnapper she chose handy man Kuroda (Masato Hagiwara). For him life starts to turn upside down, when he finds Saori's dead body at his hideout and gets a phone call from a stranger. If Kuroda doesn't want to get into trouble with the police, he should dump the dead body. Shortly after that, he sees Saori, who is supposed to be dead, on the streets. Do his bad nerves play tricks on him or is Saori in fact still alive?

Review: Those who are interested in intelligent mystery-thrillers don't need to look any further, because Hideo Nakata's "Chaos" delivers nearly everything you want. Parallels to some Hitchcock classics are undeniable and overall "Chaos" even has to be categorized as a "film noir".
At least Asian-horror-fans should be familiar with Hideo Nakata, as he is responsible for the "Ring"-series (including the american remake of part 2) and "Dark Water". With "Chaos" he proves, that he also has no problems with the thriller genre. At first, the plot doesn't seem to be something new, but several twists and surprises really can amaze the viewer.

It's difficult to say something about the story without going too much into detail and run the risk of spoiling. With uttermost confidence, the director tells us a story about a kidnapping, that is never the way it seems at first, second, or even third glance. To tell a story, which gets more and more complex with lots of twists, Nakata uses many flashbacks.
At the beginning, it's difficult to tell at what time or place we are, because these flashbacks are inserted quite unforeseeable and without warning. But eventually you'll get it.
The story has a lot of twists and always gets new layers. At the end, everything finally dissolves and makes sense. That's what makes the movie worth seeing. You have to pay attention and think for yourself. Especially the director's eye for details will charm you. For example, there is Komiyama's hand bandage, about which we will get to know more, later on. In this manner, there are a lot of other, at first sight unimportant details, that are frequently brought up and eventually explained in the end.

Visually, "Chaos" goes the way of a film noir. Nakata shoots the movie with mostly dark and cold pictures and provides the necessary atmosphere. Thanks to the complicated story, the viewer never gets bored, because the next surprise is just around the corner. Nonetheless, the movie has its lengths.

Unfortunately, the characters aren't elaborated that good. Oftentimes, they are pretty shallow and their motives are never clearly understandable. That's especially the case with Saori. Miki Nakatani, who should be known for her role in the "Ring"-series, gives her best as an actress, but it seems that she just like the script doesn't know where to go with her character. Komiyama's role is also one-dimensional. Only Masato Hagiwara can give his character Kuroda some psychological depth. But that's just not enough to compensate this big weak point of the movie. We aren't interested in the characters and actually we even don't care about their fate. The movie rather tells itself and the characters are degraded to being unimportant puppets in a play. If there had been created some believable characters, "Chaos" would have been a really good movie.

With an interesting way of story-telling, that sadly can be a little bit irritating, too, a lot of unexpected twists that let you view some events in a different light, "Chaos" is able to score. But unfortunately, the movie doesn't know where it wants to go. The ending is absolutely dissappointing, because Saori suddenly behaves in a way that goes against everything we have seen of her before. And with this, the pretty confused viewer is left alone with the ending credits...

So the movie gets a big minus because of the unsatisfying ending. Something's just missing, which is the more dissappointing as the rest of the movie, except some lengths and the shallow characters, is a pretty good mystery-thriller. Fans of intelligent thrillers will, nevertheless, have their fun.
Since Hollywood is already shooting a remake with Robert de Niro, it remains to be seen if the Americans really can do it better than the original, which would of course be a big exception to the rule...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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