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cast: Masato Hagiwara, Miki Nakatani, Ken Mitsuishi, and Jun Kunimura

director: Hideo Nakata

104 minutes (15) 2000
widescreen ratio 1.77:1
Tartan Asia Extreme DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Steven Hampton
Here's yet another Asian thriller indebted to Hitchcock. It starts out as a kidnap plot, in which spurned wife Saori (luscious Miki Nakatani, from Ring), is eager for revenge on her apparently faithless husband Takayuki (Ken Mitsuishi). In the first of several intriguing twists, the professional handyman that Saori hires to 'kidnap' her turns the tables on his seemingly helpless captive, only to discover himself implicated in the 'perfect' crime of her murder after he's collected the ransom...

Based on the novel Kaosu by Shogo Utano, this is a wholly fascinating and often mesmerising noir, with enough witty modern angles on the popular subgenre's iconic 'femme fatale', horrific moments of high drama, some illuminating character studies, a rummage through the locked bottom drawers of thoroughly amoral mentalities, and S&M bondage eroticism, to enthral any fans of Hammett and De Palma. Far from being the simplistic abduction mystery that its early scenes might suggest, Chaos slowly emerges from a cocoon of plot-layers, as marital infidelity, ruthless conspiracy, and cunning duplicity herald one startling revelation after another, to flagrantly mislead and confuse viewers, until we are comprehensively entangled in these characters' bitter turmoil of wholesale secrecy. With long-burning-fuse tensions skilfully deployed at the heart of the scenario, the progressive affect of Chaos becomes one of smothering nightmare.

Although it demands very close attention, and is painstakingly composed in such a way as to make repeat viewings almost mandatory, Chaos is such a finely nuanced drama of varied, distorted perspectives that you should find yourself spotting new things in it, each time. In that respect, Hideo Nakata's quiet puzzler is refreshingly original despite its obvious drawing on genre sources as diverse as Argento and Kurosawa for inspiration.

The DVD release has an anamorphic transfer with Dolby digital 5.1 surround and DTS 5.1 audio tracks in Japanese, plus English subtitles. Disc extras include some Tartan trailers, an unexceptional behind-the-scenes featurette, and most interestingly, a batch of director Nakata's made-for-TV shorts (A Cursed Doll, Waterfall Of A Dead Spirit, and An Inn Where A Ghost Lives), collected here under the umbrella title Curse, Death And Spirit. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there's clear evidence in these three telefantasy offerings of the spooky themes and unsettling imagery that bourgeoning talent Nakata bought to his trend-setting feature-length works Ring and Dark Water. The package also includes a six-page foldout booklet with film notes by Justin Bowyer and Erika Franklin.

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