REVIEW: Saw 3D [2010]

“If I’m lying, take me to the quarries”

Could it be the final installment in the increasingly convoluted saga that is Saw? I’ll admit that I checked out somewhat after episode four, to me the last really strong story formed from the surprisingly intelligent and creative Jigsaw mythology. After that it all rapidly devolved to merely a series of traps loosely tying one innocuous poor soul to the big picture, trying hard to make it relevant but only futilely stretching the whole thing thin. The seventh entry, forgoing the roman numerals for the concise and obvious title Saw 3D, attempts to build upon the two weak turns coming before it by coming full circle with a return of Cary Elwes’s Dr. Gordon and a conclusion to the Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell)/Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) story thread. Easily looked upon as a gimmick, I actually enjoyed this call back to its origins and applaud writers Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and director Kevin Greutert for doing their best to find the lost level of intrigue. Unfortunately, though, the little mythology included takes a backseat to its gruesome brutality, used for the simple sake of flying flesh at its glasses-wearing audience.

Commencing with Gordon’s escape—who knows how long ago now, whether days, weeks, or months since Jigsaw’s introduction of the American torture porn genre—we watch the kindly doctor cauterize his wound, knowing he’ll eventually return to the fray later on, (Who thinks he begged Lionsgate to come back so he could try and redeem his poor acting at the end of Saw?). From there we go to a lovers’ quarrel infused with a circular saw contraption putting the Judgment of Solomon to contemporary practice. These three contestants’ identities are irrelevant and the purpose of them being trapped on public display doesn’t come clear until the very end (without a heavy shovel to the head driving it down as the filmmakers do leave this one up to the viewer to work out). But to open the movie with a standalone test, devoid of meaning on the surface within the constraints of the central story, only quickly put my mindset into the camp of disinterest. I didn’t come to watch blood and gore dispense liberally as bodily entrails drip down onto the floor, I bought my ticket in the hopes of experiencing a strong, well-thought out conclusion to—despite its shortcomings—the cultural phenomenon James Wan and Leigh Whannell created.

All of a sudden we have people coming out of the woodwork as Jigsaw survivors, their tests seemingly random events without any connection to Tobin Bell’s initial plans of making citizens earn their lives. Rather than an interwoven tapestry of carefully laid out plans, as I thought was the case, the crimes are revealed to be more for the fun of torture than the spiritual awakening they began as. We even watch a foursome of mechanics get butchered as collateral damage—your new Linkin Park disc is fantastic Chester Bennington, what are you doing screaming as your skin peals from your back? Bell’s Jigsaw was methodical and deliberate in his actions; Hoffman, after taking over, has only helped quicken the denigration of both the original mission and the series itself. He is a loose cannon looking to cover his tracks, kill whomever he can, and achieve a selfish revenge for no other reason than to bring a smile to his face. No longer can the franchise walk the line of having its viewers embrace its killer as a dark savior angel; now it’s just a world of evil against evil, not one character involved worthy of redemption or salvation.

It was only natural for the filmmakers to play upon those who overcame their tests, especially since we’ve already seen one survivor become an accomplice as thanks (Shawnee Smith). The group entrapped within this game is in the control of the man who led them there—if only the series remembered how effective it was at the start with two strangers trapped in a room rather than four of more co-workers turning on each other—a liar and a cheat capitalizing on the appeal of society’s love for celebrity limelight. Sean Patrick Flanery’s Bobby has begun an ascent in the world of motivational speakers behind his novel of beating Jigsaw and surviving the aftermath of recovery, leading groups of others who have gone through the same ordeal. But it’s all a bit too clean, he being a perfect storm of charisma, empathy, and star. Dr. Gordon sees how Bobby’s using the system and others’ tragedies to cash-in and he won’t sit back without calling the man out. Everything Flanery’s character has is due to his story, so if it’s proven false, Jigsaw did nothing to save his soul and he’ll want to rectify that error.

So, Bobby is led through a trap to experience what it is all about, Hoffman searches for Jill to end the Tuck lineage once and for all, and Internal Affairs Agent Gibson (Chad Donella) gets closer and closer to capturing the him, led about in his own game of deception and payback. The acting isn’t too great, the very end is the only ‘surprise’ worthy of being included in the Saw spider-web formed over the past six years, and don’t get me started on the teeth. The 3D is for the most part subtle with blood and guts splattered so quick you don’t even realize it was coming out towards you and therefore unnecessary besides an easy cash grab for the box office take. This fact is the scariest of all since the coffers bloated to almost equal the successes of the saga’s heyday rather than the abysmal take of Part VI, perhaps breathing some life into what seemingly was dead. I read that although Saw 3D was planned as the final chapter, those involved have found a way to extend it once again. Hopefully Hollywood decides to cash out and leave it where it lays since ending it in the grimy bathroom where it began is as appropriate a closing as I could ever wish for.

Saw 3D 5/10 | ★ ★

[1] Sean Patrick Flanery stars as ‘Bobby’ in SAW 3D. Photo credit: Brooke Palmer
[2] Cary Elwes stars as ‘Dr. Gordon’ in SAW 3D. Photo credit: Brooke Palmer
[3] Ned Bellamy stars as Jeff in Lionsgate Films’ Saw 3D (2010)

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