CAPSULE: ORDER OF CHAOS (2010)

DIRECTED BY:  Vince Vieluf

FEATURING:  Rhys Coiro, Milo Ventimiglia, Samantha Mathis, Mimi Rogers, Susan Ward, Chip Joslin

PLOT: An honest attorney finishes last by following the rules until a sinister neighbor hires

onto the firm and throws his life into a state of turmoil.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Order Of Chaos takes the old, my new friend turned out to be an obsessive psycho stalker plot from movies like Bad Influence (1990) and sends it in an entirely different direction.  It is a slick, offbeat thriller, but it was not made to be weird.

COMMENTS:  Strong performances, stylish editing and an unexpected storyline distinguish this offbeat chic thriller from filmmaker Vince Vieluf.  An upstanding trooper of a guy, John (Coiro) is a natural subordinate.  An avowed approval seeker, John devotes himself to pleasing two dominating women: his belittling fiancée Jennifer (Mathis) and castrating boss Miss Craig (Rogers).  John leads a life of quiet desperation by the numbers.  Adhering to a rigid, tedious schedule with compulsive military precision, John’s day begins with a morning workout.

Running on his treadmill (a symbol of his corporate ladder climbing) John blue-tooths a minute by minute, blow by blow progress report of his activities and plans to his boss hours before work even starts.  The conversation includes numerous acknowledgments of “yes ma’am, yes ma’am,” as John absorbs lengthy instructions and mandates.

But his efforts to please the demanding, flippantly brusque Miss Craig are paying off!  He is her “Man Friday” (read that as “piss-boy”—her personal honey bucket toter).  Craig treats John like a plebe in a fraternity, yet the ever dutiful John asks “how high?” whenever he’s instructed to “jump!”  If John keeps following at her heels like a good dog, he just might have a shot at partner at some indeterminate point in the distant future.

Evenings, John promptly trots home to Jennifer to walk the dog and take out the trash.  Jennifer is the prize in the relationship, and John had better not forget it.  Indeed, he is frequently reminded of it by her working class father Louie (Joslin) who is jealous and contemptuous of John’s income and status.  To Louie, John is a sissy who won’t eat meat or drink booze.  Louie gleefully slings snide swipes and lawyer jokes.  He makes weekly family get-togethers pure hell.

John takes anxiety medication to deal with life.

Matters change drastically when cocksure yuppie Rick (Ventimiglia) moves next door.  After an awkward chance encounter at the condo, Rick shows up at work.  What a coincidence!  He’s not only Rick’s new neighbor, but his new coworker as well.  Hey, what are the odds?

There seems to be more to the enigmatic Rick than meets the eye.  A lot more.  Forceful, controlling, manipulative in a creepy way, Rick’s past just doesn’t add up.  John figures out that Rick hides some dark secrets.  Rick has a dangerous streak, something smacking of deliberate risk taking and a history of mental illness.  Rick sizes up John as being wrapped too tightly, and decides crack the veneer.  He unbalances John with ambiguous verbal jujitsu.  When John questions Rick’s jabs, Rick brushes away John’s doubts with a dubiously sincere, “just kidding!”  Is he?

Rick’s next move is to show John how to “live a little.”  Taking him to posh clubs for nightly partying with loose women, he introduces John to a fast lifestyle.  Reluctant at first, John finally embraces the fast lane.  It takes a toll on his domestic life, which drives John to party all the more.  As the consequences mount at home and work, Rick coaches John to stop taking abuse, stand up for himself, and reject being bossed around.

It’s obvious Rick is setting John up to damn himself by eating the proverbial apple.  Why?  What is his motive?

John’s wife of course, can’t keep it in her pants.  She cozies up to Rick at the earliest opportunity.  Jennifer is unable to resist flapping her lips about John’s latest project at work, one into which he is putting long hours in hopes of winning that elusive promotion.

When Rick tries first to move in on his wife and then his career, John finally becomes suspicious.  John’s precise, ordered life and emotions are in turmoil.  Rick has torn it all asunder like a tempest.  As unsettling coincidences stack up like a house of cards, John’s infrastructure melts away.

John is forced to question who is who, in order to determine which players are sharing alliances.  Is there a plot against him?  How many are really involved?  Fearful and full of doubt, he must now uncover the truth about the entities intent on wrecking his life.

At this point, I was convinced I was watching a remake of Bad Influence (1990 ) with James Spader and Rob Lowe.

This is where Order Of Chaos dramatically distinguishes itself from other movies about obsessive companions.  Writer/director Vince Vieluf throws a significant curve ball and the story sweeps into uncharted territory.

Order Of Chaos is a misunderstood film.  Vieluf did not intend it to be a formulaic blockbuster.  Instead, it is pensive, but not quietly so.  Interspersed with tense action, themes of independent thinking, insight, as well as losing and gaining control dominate this thoughtful, dapper suspense thriller.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a slick but strained mix of character study and psychological thriller about a lawyer unraveling under ambiguously real or imagined pressure.”–Dennis Harvey, Variety (contemporaneous)

Order Of Chaos trailer

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