RINGU director Hideo Nakata might be a specialist in the avenue of longhaired female wraiths, but chooses to explore that other type of dangerous woman, the femme fatale, in a film that might be brightly lit, but has the darkest noir in its twisty and convoluted heart.

Dining with his wife at a posh restaurant - the pretty Saori (Miki Nakatani) - shifty businessman Komiyama (Ken Mitsuishi) pays the bill but all of a sudden the woman is nowhere to be seen. Contacted by Kuroda (Masato Hagiwara), the apparent kidnapper, he is instructed to pay a ransom of 30 million yen. Shortly after Saori, who appears to be free, pays a visit to the man who was supposed to have abducted her, and they oddly get a hotel room together.

It becomes evident that the episode has been staged, and a nervous Kuroda tells Saori the ins and outs of being a hostage so that they can extort the money and share it: she cannot shower, cannot touch anything, can't eat unless he brings it, and above all, she has to be tied up all the time so that the bruises on her wrists and ankles are plausible. The two seem attracted to one another, Saori enjoying being tied up and Kuroda harbouring the fantasy of having sex with a bound woman, but instead keep focused on the job.

After Kuroda goes to the shop for groceries, he is greeted by a shock upon returning, when he finds Saori stone cold dead on the floor. A mystery man then phones him up to tell him to dump the body, which he buries in a forest. But living the experience down proves difficult when he spots a dead ringer for Saori walking around, and Kuroda finds that he himself has been subject to some form of trickery…

A disciplined filmmaker, Nakata uses a highly restrained visual style as a counterpoint to the dark and complicated scenes of murder and intrigue. Like the best examples of the so-called film noir genre, CHAOS charts the slide of an ordinary man - in this case handyman Kuroda - into a murky world of double cross and intrigue in which surface details cannot be taken for granted. As if to emphasise this tension, Nakata uses the recurring motif of a rain trashing into a dark puddle. Although appearing to be at night, the camera pulls out of the shadows and into the sparkling daylight to reveal a duality that infuses the whole film and most of its characters.

If the film can be faulted, it should be for falling prey to the postmodern condition of information overload. Secret follows secret and revelation follows revelation, and it seems as though we cannot go ten minutes without another baffling surprise. Although this does succeed in encompassing Kuroda's confusion, and makes us identify with him, CHAOS lives up to its name but seems a little too knowing for its own good. Masato Hagiwara makes an engaging anti-hero as Karudo, but his transition from fixing pipes to master abductor is a little hard to swallow. Miki Nakatami puts in a fine performance as Saori, who resurfaces VERTIGO-like after apparent death, and manages to be darkly sexy but at the same time unattainable - especially in the surprising and oddly moving climax.


Short Films By Hideo Nakata, "Curse, Death and Spirit": Made for Japanese television, and running a total of 65 minutes, CURSED DOLL, WATERFALL OF THE DEAD SPIRIT and AN INN WHERE A GHOST LIVES all suffer somewhat from patchy, childish performances and the flat stylistic approach that goes hand-in-and with TV. The first, about a doll who terrorises a girl and her family, and the third both focus on longhaired female spirits that Nakata would explore so insidiously in the first two RINGU films. The second, interestingly, about a female ghost who drowns little boys, features what appears to be the very same waterfall from the end of CHAOS. These films wouldn't make for a good stand-alone release, but do constitute an intriguing companion to the impressive feature and allow us to trace many of Nakata's images and motifs.

Original Theatrical Trailer

Behind the Scenes: This featurette takes a look at the shooting of the film, but should be viewed AFTER the film because it contains spoilers.

Review by Matthew Sanderson

Released by Tartan
Extras :
see main review