Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for a good Jason Statham action flick. In Statham, the average Joes of America have the rare and wonderful combination of a man with a receding hairline, a comparatively average physique, and a brawl-fu fighting style that doesn’t look like it took John Woo three years to choreograph. His lightly-accented, Eastwoodian tenor sounds to all red-blood American males like the voice we use to talk to ourselves when we’re sure nobody is listening. A good Statham-based action movie couldn’t be closer to my definition of vicarious fun if the main character had an apartment in Fort Sanders and the final action sequence involved turning the Sunsphere into a giant transforming battle robot.
Additionally, I have a soft spot for movies that don’t quite make a widespread American theatrical release. While the feeling isn’t as rampant as my Statham worship, the little-engines-that-couldn’t of cinema hold a special place in my heart. They’re little lost puppies to me, all the more adorable for their destitute condition.
Unfortunately, these factors combined make Chaos, a lost Jason Statham/Wesley Snipes vehicle from 2005 recently released on DVD, an utter disappointment.
Chaos is nominally a heist film-turned-murder mystery that ultimately fails at both genres, pulling from such disparate sources as Inside Man, Speed, Superman III, Quick Change, and, inexplicably enough, William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer. Statham plays Quentin Connors, a stereotypical cop on the edge placed on leave from a stereotypical police force by a stereotypical boss for stereotypical cop-on-the-edge reasons. All this changes when a stereotypical team of bank robbers (led by Wesley Snipes) pulls the stereotypical hold-a-bank-full-of-innocent-bystanders-hostage-and-demand-the-loose-cannon-do-the-negotiations trick.
Has the repetition of that word bludgeoned your mind into a nice, warm pulp yet? If it has, I’m accurately conveying the feel of the movie.
One of my high-school English teachers taught me the old adage about the shotgun on the mantle: If a writer describes the shotgun in the opening paragraph, it will go off by the end of the story. Someone should have given this rule a corollary and applied it to Chaos in pre-production. Specifically, just because you have a few dozen influences doesn’t mean you have to use everything from all of them. The plot of Chaos haphazardly jumps from one tired cliché to the next like Jackie Chan in a ladder store, ignoring such classic storytelling conventions as making sense, or not causing the audience to say, “Oh, we’re doing this now?” When your plot twists are both largely nonsensical and entirely telegraphed, that’s not order emerging from chaos. That’s predictability emerging from waywardness.
Director Tony Giglio has cited The French Connection as a major inspiration for his film’s cat-and-mouse storyline. Taken the best way possible, it’s a lesser homage; at the worst, it’s a gross misinterpretation of both films on Giglio’s part meant only to bait potential viewers. I can’t vouch either way for his intent, but I can say that the result is inaccurate.
Chaos’ wide range of influences does the film more harm than good. The film simply spreads itself too thin to adequately cover all its bases, turning what could have been a solid example of one genre into a watered-down version of several. Strangely enough, the only chaotic part about Chaos is the game the actors brought with them. Snipes brought his A game, and as such is the standout here. After (hopefully) getting out from under the stodgy old Blade persona, his eagerness to portray someone—anyone—different shows. It’s not enough to blind viewers to the film’s other inadequacies, but it does serve to give his screen time a boost.
It’s a pity that Snipes’ enthusiasm didn’t spread very far. Statham’s somewhere around his C game here. In his defense, it’s not entirely his fault. The average-guy ass-kicker we’ve come to expect was traded in for a character who is neither; he might be more nuanced if given a better plot, but as it stands, Quentin Connors is just Statham Lite. If he’s trying to branch out, that’s great; but nobody’s going to come away from Chaos with the impression that Jason Statham is finally taking acting seriously—especially anybody who saw In the Name of the King.