There are bad movies. There are stupid movies. There are shitty movies. There are awful movies. And there is Philippe Martinez’s THE CHAOS EXPERIMENT, which is an awful shitty, awful stupid, awful bad movie. And I’d say that’s an awful shame because it has Eric Roberts, Armand Assante and Val Kilmer in it, but that would be a lie. It’s not a shame. They’re grown men who have been in dozens of movies running the entire length of the quality spectrum. They know how to read a script and have a meet and greet with a director. If they didn’t pick up on how poorly constructed the script was or how inept of a director Martinez would turn out to be, I feel no shame in calling the kettle a black, steaming pile of crap.
More than likely is the scenario that all three knew what was coming and decided to just go through with it and get paid. That being the case, I don’t blame ‘em. No one’s ever going to see this thing anyway, right? Even so, I’m still dubious that there weren’t better projects out there with the same pay scale.
What is shameful, however, is that I’m not only the kind of person who gives THE CHAOS EXPERIMENT a chance in the first place, but I’m the jackass who gives schlock priority over far better films. There’s stuff sitting on my DVD shelf that I own but have never seen that I’m positive is better than a mad man trapping 6 people in a steam room to prove how awful the effects of global warming will be. Yet here I am, yet again punishing myself by sitting through a film I know is going to be junk. I just have to know for myself. I never learn.
Things start off okay. Val Kilmer approaches a newspaper editor asking him to help him save the world. Ya know, standard chit-chat. A few minutes go before Kilmer and Assante are playing off each other; Assante the grizzled cop who just wants to punch the clock and bang some old dames, Kilmer the man no one believes has actually trapped six people in a steam room. It’s an interesting start, but then we get to the actual steam room (the titular chaos experiment) and all hell breaks loose. Not in the movie of course, it’s pretty tame, but it’s at this point that all the cracks in Robert Malkani’s script surface and Martinez proves incapable of style or grace.
The character introductions could not possibly be more cliched. What follows is essentially a round table of each character reading their scripted character bio (“Hey-yo, I’m Frank. If you couldn’t already tell from my absurd accent, I’m from Brooklyn, which clearly makes me the wildcard of the bunch”). They’re also considerably more forthright than strangers ever would be, even for ones lured into the trap under the auspice of it being sponsored by a dating service. Then it’s only a matter of few ticks of the clock before sweaty chic #1 drops her top, which is sadly more comical than alluring. From there on it’s all washed out, hideous photography, obnoxious editing and daft storytelling.
I can’t remember the last time I watched something this ugly. If the yellow gel light that drowns the steam isn’t enough to give you a headache, there’s a post-production blur effect added to every shot to remind us that they’re in a steam room. Because a movie about a man who traps people in a sauna to prove that rising temperature will drive all humans to the brink of insanity apparently thinks we the audience are the morons. Us ditch diggers would never remember they’re supposed to be sweltering without the film equivalent of the stinky lines a 5 year old draws around a stick figure combined with the repeated insertion of Val Kilmer gruffing, “Do you know what happens to a person in 130 degrees? Their lungs melt and their eyes cauterize.”
Lungs melt and eyes cauterize? Yeah, maybe if Godzilla blasts you with radioactive breath, not if you’re simply walking around in 130 degrees in a swimsuit. My lungs and eyes work just fine, thanks, and I spent three weeks in the blast furnace that is Qatar’s 136 degree daily weather — and that was during Ramadan where it was law to wear long sleeves. Welcome to the Internet, Robert Malkani, it can be used for something called research. There are thousands upon thousands of people who already live in conditions like that or worse. I bet the soldiers at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti will pick up a copy of THE CHAOS EXPERIMENT at the PX (this is the kind of movie all PX’s are stocked with, btw) and wish it was as cold as 130 degrees outside.
And I’ve yet to even broach the abysmal ending. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who is a glutton for film punishment like I am. Just think of a predictable ending for a story like this, the kind that would make you laugh out loud if it happened. Take that idea, make it huff lead paint as a child, hit it over the head with a sledgehammer and then have it take a calculus test. That’s about how stupid the ending to this movie is.
Guh, I’ve already spent longer thinking about THE CHAOS EXPERIMENT than its creators did. Now I just want to smash my head into my keyboard until the next obvious floater comes my way. I wonder what’s on Syfy…