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With: Masato Hagiwara, Miki Nakatani, Ken Mitsuishi
Written by: Hisashi Saito
Directed by: Hideo Nakata
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 90
Date: 07/01/2000

Chaos (1999)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Special 'Chaos'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

When I received a VHS tape in the mail with Hideo Nakata's new film Chaos on it, I couldn't help thinking of the plot of his most famous movie, Ringu. In that film, everyone who views a certain video will die within a week. Nevertheless, I summoned up my courage and sat down to watch Chaos, and boy, am I glad I did. It's my first time in front of a Nakata film, and I hope it's not my last. The film opens today, projected on the Four Star's big screen, so that you don't have to worry about tainted tapes.

Without having seen Ringu< I'd like to venture that Chaos is even more inventive. It begins as a routine kidnapping. A husband (Masato Hagiwara) and a wife (Miki Nakatani) enjoy a nice dinner. The only element that seems out of place is that the husband's hand is wrapped in a bandage and has trouble holding his eating utensils. As the husband pays for the meal, the wife goes outside and disappears. Later, a kidnapper, known for simplicity's sake as "the handyman" (Ken Mitsuishi), calls to discuss ransom. We see the wife laying on the floor, tied up and struggling for her life.

That's about as far as you can get from what actually happens in Chaos. Without going too deeply, some people are not who they seem, the kidnapping may or may not be real, and a murder is involved. Nakata and screenwriter Hisashi Saito craftily unfold the story with the use of flashbacks and flash-forwards; in other words, the kidnapping we see at the beginning is far from the actual beginning of the whole story. Better yet, the filmmakers never explain outright where the story is in time; they allow us to figure it out through dialogue. They assume their audience has the brains to follow them. Nakata makes brilliant use of interior and exterior light, and plants little visual cues -- like rain spattering on a flooded surface -- that tie the jumbled story bits together.

At the appropriate moments, the filmmakers reveal an answer to one mystery, and open up a whole new one at the same time. You sit and you sputter, "so that's why that happened, but what about this other thing?" And the movie eventually answers everything. Yet the ending left me scratching my head -- not because of a hole in the plot but because of a character glitch. The filmmakers work out every detail in the plot, but they can't seem to figure out what to do with the surviving players. What does anyone do after a tale like this? I guess walking off into the sunset isn't really an option. But don't let that stop you from checking out this titillating twister; it has more than enough good stuff to go around.

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