Any gangland action drama needs a few basics in order to run smoothly. First, you need a plot device, preferably a deal involving guns, drugs or insane amounts of money. The deal should go bad, and one party gets cheated. A murderous game of cat and mouse develops and a few well-played twists get thrown in for good measure. “A Kiss of Chaos” features all of these with a nice retro mid- to late-’90s feel that made me think of “New York Undercover” when I first saw it.
Five keys of coke are stolen from drug lord Demetrius (Michael Kenneth Williams) by a two-bit dealer named Angel (Michael Rivera) and an accomplice. Demetrius sends his bodyguard, Freddie (Adam Rodriguez), after his drugs. Freddie shoots and kills Angel’s accomplice, and Angel is shot in the leg. Angel makes it to his ex-girlfriend Phoenix’s (Judy Marte) house. She wants nothing to do with him and tells him to get out once his wound has stabilized. The next day, Isis — Phoenix’s very obviously mentally unstable sister — shows up on Phoenix’s doorstep. Supposedly getting treatments for HIV, she had stopped taking her meds and was back out on the street tricking, getting into trouble for Phoenix to clean up.
Phoenix, heavily burdened by her sister since their father was found floating in the Hudson just before their alcoholic mother was killed in front of them, leans on her best friend and fellow artist Tiffany. Tiffany would very much like to be more than friends, though Phoenix is very wishy-washy about the notion. Phoenix tells Tiffany what all is going down with Isis, Angel and the coke. Tiffany then hatches a plan to unload the product. She calls her brother Tony, who was also dispatched by Freddie to find the drugs, to make a quick sale. A very Guy Ritchie-esque circle ensues that chains together twists on twists in twists.
The characters pull it through, but it takes a few minutes to really understand what’s going on. Phoenix was beautifully played by Judy Marte. The strong-yet-damaged good role works well for her, and I think the way she isolates herself from all the stress in her life really pulls the tension to its limit without being melodramatic.
Isis, quite frankly, is a *crazy* broad. Every time she’s on screen with a weapon in her hand, I flinch. This chick threatens to kill herself so often it makes the boy who cried wolf seem like an honest broker. When she’s not threatening to kill herself, it always looks like she’s about to pop someone else. In and of itself, that doesn’t sound scary. What makes it so is the fact that it is pretty well insinuated that she gets her jollies from having the power over life and death, and the farther along in the movie, the more utterly sick and sadistic, yet interestingly righteous it gets.
I thoroughly enjoyed the flick and I only have two real criticisms. The first is that the movie moves way too fast at first for as complicated as it is. Ricardo Sean Thompson takes a few pages from a few unconventional directors like Ronny Yu (“Formula 51”), which makes the plot interesting and keeps you guessing — two big keys to keeping my attention — but like all movies with multiple intersecting storylines, you have to take time to sort everyone out before swerving the wheel. It took me a few minutes to get a grasp on the storyline.
The second drawback is that there are periods of one-dimensionality in that every bad guy, save Eddie, has no background, not even his boss. It’s almost designed for them to be disposable. Angel is a very stereotypical Hispanic gangster, which serves him well when he’s doing gangster stuff. However, in the scenes with Phoenix I can’t get past the stereotype.
All in all, though, writer-director Ricardo Sean Thompson succeeds with his film. “A Kiss of Chaos” is “Snatch” meets “Pulp Fiction” with a Latino flair. And that’s high praise from me. It’s a good flick to watch on a Saturday afternoon or an evening for a change of pace … but leave the kids at home.
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