“What do you think of the Saw movies?”, I get asked this a fair amount, being the horror fan that I am. Usually those asking are in favour of the series and so I am likely to reply that I enjoyed the first one but there is a law of diminishing returns that applies here.
Thats not the whole truth, I think they kinda suck. The first one I got three quarters through, felt bored and was going to turn it off until I read online that there was a great twist and so I stuck it out because I really love an unexpected ending. The blood was still fake-looking and the acting sub-par, but I agree the ending was a masterstroke in audience manipulation. A solid 6/10 I thought, mostly because of the ending. The rest of the series I think became an exercise in grotesque grossness and silliness, convoluted rubbish that was slowly eating itself. I also despise James Wan’s efforts and the sight of his name on the credits of any movie is apt to give me hives. Personally I blame him and his Conjuring universe (toothless horror wannabe’s) for the homogenisation of horror films. Thank goodness, we have moved past that era of white-bread banality.
The reason I have brought all that up is that I have no intention of talking about the previous films in this review. This is a new iteration of an ongoing franchise but it seems keen to tun a new leaf and I am going to honour that. Frankly its easy to do so as this film features none of the more ‘iconic’ aspects of the original series, ie theres no Amanda, no Tobin Bell, and no Jigsaw.
Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock, occasionally breaking out from being ‘Chris Rock’ but generally bringing his schtick with him) is lumbered with a new bushy-tailed partner on the same day someone starts killing Police officers in unimaginably gruesome ways. Zeke is disliked by the department for ‘ratting out’ his previous partner as a dirty cop, and spends his time humouring his ageing former-Captain father Marcus (a tired but still respectable Samual L Jackson) and fighting with current captain Angie (Marisol Nichols) to take the case.
Wet-behind-the-ears new partner William (the always good Max Minghella, on the precipice of being a star) is about to get the education of a lifetime helping Banks crack the case, if they can survive long enough to do so.
Saw 2 director Darren Lynn Bousman takes the reigns here, and I liked the grungy 70’s police-procedural look he gave the film , it lended some of the more outlandish plot points a much needed element of grittiness lacking in most of the series. He also lovingly filmed the gruesome set pieces in graphic detail which the gore-hounds should appreciate.
Acting-wise its a mixed bag with some bit players stepping up and delivering, whist others are as wooden as a bag of pegs. Unfortunately one of the least convincing performances comes from Nichols as Angie, her demeanour is never once convincing as a tough inner-city police captain.
This was never going to win any awards and that ok because my expectations really weren’t that high, and maybe because I am not a Saw fan, my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt, but apart from the lapses in acting quality I felt it was a solid police/horror; which admittedly is a small sub-genre indeed.
The element of comedy in a film that is not a horror/comedy was good, and, as in It 1 & 2, I enjoy some levity wth my thrills, so that worked well for me.
All in all, I enjoyed it; I laughed, I cringed, and the storyline worked.
But please no more!