The straight-to-DVD thriller The Chaos Experiment dares to go where few films tread: it mocks someone who prays at the altar of global warming alarmism.
So give Chaos props for such a bold stand, since the misbegotten movie doesn’t deserve much praise in nearly any other way that counts.
The film, now out on DVD, stars Val Kilmer as a professor who thinks all the gloom and doom predictions about global warming are wrong. Dead wrong.
The Earth will be warming faster and hotter than anyone expects. In three years we‘ll experience 130-degree days — in December.
“That‘s a fact,” the professor gloats.
No one believes him, so he decides to take drastic action. He lures six strangers into a steam room under the guise it‘s a dating service stunt, cranks up the heat, and then throws away the key. It’s all about showing people how societal norms break down when the thermostat goes through the roof.
Then he tells his story to the local newspaper to drum up press for his “experiment.“ He wants publicity and doesn’t care if he goes to jail in the process.
The Earth must … be … saved.
So far, so original, if a bit overheated, but that’s hardly a sin for some guilty pleasures. And Kilmer sells his fantastical warnings as well as expected — what a shame he’s been reduced to DVD fare of late.
Things deep south as soon as the story breaks away to those six trapped strangers. Suddenly, we’re in Cinemax After Dark territory, watching a gender-balanced group of attractive people wearing next to nothing and chatting away like some third-rate reality show.
The sauna dwellers are fighting well before they realize the predicament they’re in. It’s hardly a social experiment if the rats in the cage start squawking before the trap is sprung.
The only recognizable face amidst the steamy, sweaty bodies is Eric Roberts, who manages to maintain his dignity and look respectable in only a towel, but the script soon lets him down.
Veteran actor Armand Assante, playing a detective called in to investigate the professor’s claims, is a curious casting choice here, but he’s tonally so very different than Kilmer that the pairing clicks. What they really need is a script with bite. Instead, they share a few tense moments, a scene or two where the electricity between them arcs into existence before quickly winking out.
The Chaos Experiment’s director, Philippe Martinez, urges everyone in the sauna to overact to their heart’s content, but he hasn’t given them anything meaty to do. One of the six, a Brooklyn wise guy, even says “fuhgetaboutit” at one point, as if reading from a central casting handbook.
We’re also treated to one gratuitous nude scene and endless slow-motion shots, all the better to pad the film’s running time.
Kilmer, whose career has sagged in recent years, once plied on his peculiar tics for roles in The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Doors. He’s always been a mercurial actor, inventing pregnant pauses where none rightly exist and bringing his own sense of the surreal to even straight-laced roles.
He’s working on material far beneath him here, but he gives the professor the kind of controlled mania the film sorely needs. For a while that kind of juice gives Chaos a kick. But no amount of Kilmer-style ham can make up for the secondary story.
Roberts tries to anchor his half of the tale, but he’s surrounded by scenery chewers, all of whom look remarkably trim to be part of a dating service.
Chaos provides some Saw-style bloodletting, and the social experiment theme plays like it’s on 77 RPMs. But horror hounds won’t find enough gristle here to make the film worth a look.
Near the end, as if desperate to achieve the minimal 90 minute running time, we’re treated to even more slow motion camera tricks. But we care nothing for the people entrapped. In fact, audiences might start rooting for the steam hoses.
When modern films dabble in global warming, we typically get horror tales (The Day After Tomorrow) or sanctimonious screeds (An Inconvenient Truth).
Chaos’ global warming angle certainly intrigues if only for the novel spin placed upon it. Here’s a movie daring to suggest global warming fear mongers might be a little … insane. Or are they? The film takes some serious detours in the waning moments, few of which will leave viewers satisfied.
Frankly, ideologues on both the right and the left won’t take much away from the film’s storyline.
The Chaos Experiment deserves praise for not following the media template on “climate change,” but it’s still a far cry from a respectable night with your DVD player.