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Saw V (2008)


Unlike most mainstream critics, I'm reviewing Saw V from a fan's perspective. Yes, it's fun to eviscerate horror movies as cheap, poorly constructed genre fare, but the Saw franchise has been consistently interesting and smart. Part of the genius of this series is that each subsequent film answers questions (read: covers up the plot holes) of the previous pictures. For example, one of the biggest criticisms lobbed at the first film was the villain's ability to devise elaborate traps and kidnap people when part of his motivation stemmed from his being in the late stages of cancer; the solution: reveal, in Saw II, that he had an apprentice helping him the whole time...

The first three films created a tidy loop, a completed puzzle--until the last moments of Saw III when the series' famous twist ending came into play. The movie ended with the death of Jigsaw, the evil mastermind whose horrific games were meant to offer redemption to the corrupt (think Se7en's John Doe with an engineering degree); the catch was that his passing had set another game in motion, leading into the next installment...

Saw IV answered more questions about parts one through three, and set up additional mysteries for parts five and six, but the brilliance of the movie itself is that it contained only ten or fifteen minutes of actual sequel material. At the end of the movie, it becomes apparent that Saw IV is, in fact, a paraquel (a groovy little term I learned this week) of Saw III; this made for a mind-bending walk out of the theatre, but did very little to satisfy my desire to see the story move forward...

Wake up, everybody! It's time to discuss Saw V!

{Note: Much of this review has been spent covering old ground, I know, and that's partially because this "Critic(isms)" page is so new--most of the people I know have already heard these theories in person, and have answered back with glassy-eyed stares. It's also due to the fact that I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone who may want to see it in the theatre. And I do recommend the big-screen experience for this one. Just be prepared for a less-than-dazzling evening...}

Saw V is two-thirds of a pretty terrific picture. But, like Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, it is a frustrating endeavor for anyone paying close attention. With Jigsaw dead, the movie centers on Detective Hoffman, the one surviving cop from the previous movies, who was recently revealed as having been Jigsaw's second apprentice. He has devised a new game involving five seemingly random strangers who, in fact, share a Deep, Dark Secret; this device worked very well in Saw II, when it came out that the strangers were actually all criminals who had been busted by the cop who was on Jigsaw's trail; the cop's son had been thrown in with the low-lives and made to fend for himself while the audience waited to see when, exactly, his identity would be discovered. The randoms in Saw V, however, share a really lame connection, one that I would go so far as to call sloppy; but I'll withhold absolute judgment until Saw VI...

Hoffman is pursued by the FBI's Agent Strahm, a holdover from part three, who spends most of the picture snooping around Jigsaw's old crime scenes, muttering revelations to himself the way that NOBODY DOES (thanks, Patton Oswalt). The best parts of Saw V are the flashbacks with Hoffman and Jigsaw; Tobin Bell is sorely missed as the series' heavy, but at least he's able to contribute his smoky voice and bemused, calculating eyes to the proceedings. In fact, whenever Costas Mandylor's Hoffman is on-screen with Bell, I wished that the movie would shatter the "realism" of its universe and have Jigsaw come back from the dead as an evil-genius-zombie...

Ultimately, the movie falls apart in the last twenty minutes. Like The Prestige, I spent an inordinate amount of the run-time hoping, praying, that the filmmakers had not been so careless as to leave such obvious clues to the movie's "twist" ending; that I'd be rewarded by having these clues reverse back on themselves for a real surprise. Unfortunately, the only surprise at the end of Saw V is how poorly it compares to those of the previous pictures. My friend, Marshall, with whom I saw the movie, said that he didn't see the end coming because he'd "turned off his brain"; I died a bit inside, but realized, sadly, that he'd figured out the secret to fully enjoying the Saw V...

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Reader Comments (1)

Thanks so much, buddy, for posting this. I think you're the only one who could write a review as perfect as this because you are so intelligent & logical!!

October 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterScott Rose

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