Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I guess we can officially welcome Val Kilmer down here with us my Straight to DVD brethren. I was holding off on including Mr. Kilmer as one of The Fallen, not certain that he had completely dedicated himself to our cherished Direct to DVD genre that we personally hold in such high regard but with this flick ‘The Chaos Experiment’ I think we can welcome Mr. Kilmer in with open arms. This is like the fourth straight ‘star vehicle’ of the Direct to DVD variety that Mr. Kilmer has been in like the last two years and by almost any measure, that qualifies him for admission. Add to that that this film also stars two more of our Direct to DVD heroes in Eric Roberts and Armand Assante and we have a cast that almost makes me want to weep. Plus with Kilmer’s entry into our ranks this now makes him the greatest Direct to DVD actor ever, taking the spot was previously, albeit briefly, held by Cuba Gooding Jr. Welcome Mr. Kilmer. And remember, once you get in, you can’t get out.

Taking place right up I-96 in Grand Rapids Michigan, meet Jimmy Pettit (Kilmer). Jimmy apparently is some kind of Internet dating entrepreneur and is showing Grant (E-Rob), one his clients, around a palatial hotel in which his grand dating service is about to launch.

Next thing we know we’re with Jimmy who is having a talk with a newspaper editor (Rick Robinson Jr.) telling him a fantastic story about the ills of Global Warming and how he has six people locked in a sauna and his plans to kill these people if this editor doesn’t run his Perils of Global Warming Manifesto on the front page of his newspaper. Though it does seem like Jimmy is a total nutjob the editor still calls his buddy, police detective Mancini (Assante), who does some perfunctory investigation of Jimmy’s seemingly ridiculous claim.

While this is going on it does indeed appear that there are six people in a sauna, they just don’t know that they’re locked in yet. In addition to Grant there’s grieving widower Christopher (Patrick Muldoon) and obnoxious Brooklanite Frank (Quinn Duffy) who gets my vote for the ‘We All Gonna Die Guy’. Soon three hotties enter the picture in failed actress Catherine (Megan Brown), neurotic basket case Margaret (Cordelia Reynolds) and the total bitch and soon to be topless Jessie (Eve Mauro).

Eventually our six heat soakers do discover that they are locked in this sauna which is getting hotter by the minute and as expected they start freaking out. Parallel these cats freak out sessions with Jimmy getting grilled by Detective Mancini who doesn’t know if Jimmy is a mad serial killer or if all of this is just a figment of his vivid imagination or maybe it is true and it just happened a while ago and Jimmy is just now getting around to confessing. I would like to tell you that eventually the truth will be revealed. Yes, I would like very much to tell you this.

Convoluted and sketchy… thy name is ‘Chaos Experiment. Director Phillipe Martinez who showed with the Van Damme vehicle ‘Wake of Death’ that he’s fairly adept at crafting an above average action flick doesn’t fair nearly as well with psychological torture drama. It starts out well enough, as one would expect a movie opening with a couple of Academy Award nominees is Val Kilmer and E-Rob should start out, and the setup was fairly solid if not altogether fresh or original but that’s okay because what is fresh an original nowadays? But as the film plays on one of the problems, it appears to me, is that the film jumps back and forth from the repartee between Assante’s cop and Kilmer’s loon back to our toasty sextet freaking out. Separately they seem to work well enough, particularly Assante and Kilmer together, but the way the two elements were combined seemed to interrupt the flow and stem the momentum that might’ve been building up from either scenario. Plus I don’t think the audience got a good feel for any of the tortured six personality wise, with the possible exception of E-Rob’s character of Grant, to really care all that much when they started to eventually die off.

The biggest problem with ‘The Chaos Experiment’ is that this the kind of movie that really sets itself up for a boffo ending because even though the movie is fairly mediocre up this point Martinez has done a good job of keeping this audience member in the dark so here I sit waiting for some type of resolution to this thing. Doesn’t come. In fact instead of a resolution we get a conclusion that is so open ended and nonsensical that one is left wondering why one wasted one’s time watching the movie.

Oh well, waddayagonna do? With the ‘Chaos Experiment’ we have some quality actors surrounded by some nice looking cinematography taking place in city that has a depressed economy and needs any boost it can get locked in a story that is about as unsatisfying as anything I’ve seen recently seen, which is really too bad.

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