REVIEW: Saw V [2008]

“Everybody deserves a chance”

Wow, did a Saw film get beat out by a bunch of Disney tweeners for the top spot? Maybe the tide has changed and the blood and gore doesn’t quite hold up on the scare factor versus singing and dancing kids … hey that scares me more too. Saw V has arrived anyways, though, and it continues the intricate storyline very well. While that story ties together nicely, the film itself is not up to par. I believe this is the first of the series that I actually started thinking about the stupidity of some situations on screen. In the past I’ve just let them go because the plot got me invested completely and I needed to see what would happen. Here, between trying to deflect the moments of disbelief with more blood than any that came before it and our “hero” deciding to speak out loud to describe things we just saw flashbacks of, I had to shake my head because the little things were taking me away from the big picture. It’s a shame too, because the script really interweaves the present with the past perfectly, connecting every installment together by shedding light on the behind the scenes goings-on for each one. Once again the writers have found a way to create inside the grey areas, beefing up the mythology and making it all more carefully orchestrated than we had originally thought.

Time is played with again, but what else did you expect? It all opens with a murder set-up, however there is one huge difference … whether the victim follows the rules and beats the game or not, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be able to save himself. This is so un-Jigsaw-like that maybe our new evil incarnate, (if you haven’t seen the past films, you shouldn’t be reading this anyways), Detective Hoffman, doesn’t quite share the same mentality of rehabilitation as John. Here is the first solo kill from the new serial murderer, or is it? After the film continues on, we are treated to many flashbacks helping to flesh out the relationship between John and Hoffman, how they met, how they connected, and what made this cop turn into an angel of death. Around the halfway mark is where we are finally able to get our feet underneath us, letting us discover exactly when everything we’ve seen has occurred in relation to the others. And of course, this device allows us to experience more of Tobin Bell’s superior psychopath, once again making it almost seem as though what he does is the right thing.

It truly all comes together, a fact that intrigues me to think that this may be the final piece to the puzzle. We discover small details including what transgressions the obese man in Saw got him in the barbed wire, how the doctor’s penlight ended up at the scene of that crime, why Amanda was placed in action during Saw II, and what got Hoffman involved with the side he was investigating against. The ability to keep adding on and make the background richer with each film is astounding. Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan did a great job picking up where the original writers left off with Saw IV and have continued that job here. Unfortunately it is their handling of the present details that falter. I don’t blame them too much because they had a lot on their plates making the backstory connect, leaving something to be desired on the periphery story about five young adults unknowingly involved in an accidental arson murder is understandable.

The game these five people must play is very obvious, with its twist blatantly there to be understood, yet milked until the final “test”. As a result, I just wanted to be done with them and go back to Hoffman’s cat and mouse game with FBI Agent Strahm. It’s too bad because I’m a fan of Carlo Rota from his “24” days and Julie Benz was quite interesting too, (when will I find the time to start watching “Dexter”?). Their storyline was just too much of a MacGuffin, one that never asked me to invest time in it, so I never did. Scott Patterson (Strahm) and Costas Mandylor (Hoffman) were too intriguing to pass up on. And that is totally character based, because I will admit, neither are that stellar as actors. They brood well and keep that blank, cold stare to uncomfortable effect. Anyone who can orchestrate a game as good as Jigsaw is worth your time and, as for our hero Strahm, anyone who can give himself a tracheotomy is all kinds of badass.

So, if you’ve been keeping score and haven’t lost your stomach yet, do yourself a favor and continue the journey. It’s not the best installment, but it builds upon the past nicely. You probably don’t have to run to the theatres, giving it a rent in a couple months should suffice. Just be forewarned and don’t take too much stock in the “you won’t believe how it ends” tagline. The ending is telestrated from the get-go, just one more example of how the standalone story is much weaker than the mythology continuity. And don’t forget to pay attention to some innocuous moments with John’s ex-wife, Betsy Russell’s Jill Tuck. Whatever her involvement is, besides the lie she tells towards the end, may just be a centerpiece to Saw VI, if that tale gets green-lit for production.

Saw V 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

[1] Julie Benz (“Brit,” left), Carlo Rota (“Charles,” center left), Greg Bryk (“Mallick,” center right), and Meagan Good (“Luba,” right) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s Saw V.
[2] Tobin Bell (“Jigsaw”) stars in Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s Saw V.


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