Oh yes, the Saw franchise. A series of increasingly violent films with flashes and speed-ups with a dash of philosophy and characters flipping on a dime: from calm and collected to screaming. Am I a fan? Of the first few films, yes, as we were given a couple of clever twists and the engaging performances of Tobin Bell as Jigsaw. Alas, the Jigsaw killer is now dead and a new mechanical mastermind is targeting cops. Detective Zeke (Chris Rock) is given control of the case which he navigates with a new rookie Scheck (Max Minghella). Meanwhile his retired father Marcus (Samuel L. Jackson) goes off hunting for the killer alone. But then again, they all do. It’s a requirement.
The overall premise is fine. Despite the times we live in and the issues that need addressing, I don’t expect every film to perfectly put down a stand on issues such as police reform, though it is clear that many of Zeke’s fellow officers have thrown aside the ‘protect and serve’ motto in favor of just shooting when they feel like it in a series of flashbacks that feel ripped from the headlines today. They hit hard, and when a serial killer is dishing out what they did on civilians, sympathy is fleeting. One of the few twists that actually landed for me had this sort of weight.
Given the actors at play and the fact that there are so many sequels to the original Saw, I would’ve liked there to be a little more creativity put into what we’re seeing. I don’t mean the traps. I recently cut open my finger by accident so one of the latest traps was more than effective as it made my hand twitch. In fact, for fans of the gore factor, this film should hopefully satisfy. They get the job done and aren’t there just to be overly complicated. When the iconic music by Charlie Clouser begins playing, we’re reminded of past climaxes and praying this new reveal is a good addition. Almost every single character that winds up attached to springs and wires is snuck on in the exact same way to the point that it just feels lazy. Guessing the killer and their general motive was simply…simple.
As for the actors themselves, Chris Rock is attempting a balancing act of a snarky comedian with the gravitas of a broken detective. I wouldn’t say he falls off the beam but it does feel like he’s not quite pulling it off. There’s one scene where his face becomes decorated with shards of glass and Zeke bravely continues on without much fuss. Did I miss something? Did I blink every time he reacted to it? Shouldn’t a person be continuously wincing and groaning in pain when that happens? Practice makes perfect and I don’t hold it against him as acting has never been the largest part of this franchise. The detective work appears by the numbers and I kept waiting for someone to call in the National Guard.
So what are we left with? A mildly entertaining film with a few fun little scenes to test the squeamish. Director Darren Lynn Bousman pulled off Saw 2 , which managed to amp up the gore and the sense of trickery. This film doesn’t hit as hard, but if any franchise is capable of sequels, it’s this one.
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