Spiral: From the Book of Saw

At the Movies Blog

Chris Rock plays a detective showing Max Minghella’s character the ropes.

I’ve never seen any of the Saw films. I figured it wasn’t necessary for this, as I knew the premise was a serial killer who would chain people up and give them the ‘option’ of sawing off a limb to survive (I think that was the premise, but I’m too lazy to Google and see if that’s correct). It was scary enough for me watching James Franco take off his arm in the Oscar-nominated 127 Hours (and I believe Franco has now sawed off his career in Hollywood, but I digress).

The way the filmmakers decided to give us another installment of this series is intriguing. The bad guy is going after dirty cops. I’m guessing this will make all the haters of the police happy. And who doesn’t have fun watching dirty cops on the big screen? Although I’m the only person I know that disliked both Training Day and Rampart

The director of a few of the Saw films (Darren Lynn Bousman) is on board for this one, and he’s given a great pair of leads — Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson. After the third dead pig head shows up at a crime scene, my wife made me laugh by saying, “When is Jackson gonna yell that he’s tired of these MF-ing pigs in his MF-ing precinct!”

I can’t remember the wife’s reaction when late in the movie Jackson (as Banks’ father Marcus and former police chief), yells at the creepy recorded voice taunting him, with the response, “Yes, I do wanna play a game, muthaf*****!”

Rock is Zeke Banks, the lead detective trying to track the killer of one of the few police officers he liked and trusted on the force. Zeke’s going through a divorce so we hear him rant about it like Rock is on stage doing his stand-up, which was very welcome. From an opening scene where he talks about some politically incorrect elements of Forrest Gump, or how women cheat in the daytime…to his talking to the rookie (Max Minghella of The Handmaid’s Tale) he’s assigned as a partner — it was a blast. And like all these buddy-cop movies, the veteran complains about being assigned a partner (although unlike those movies, it’s nice that Banks doesn’t stay a jerk to the rook for very long). 

The problem I have starts in the opening scene, where we see an officer chasing a purse snatcher, only to be drawn into the sewer system. It seems highly unlikely that a cop would follow a purse snatcher – alone –  but a movie like this doesn’t want you to question these things. After all, the ways the various officers get tortured would have taken years and years to set up, and it doesn’t seem remotely possible. So I’d be willing to let that slide, but it’s that the film starts with this officer having his tongue cut off, before a subway hits him. And it’s this disgusting torture porn that had me wondering…just who are these scenes for? Who can derive pleasure from watching this? We all love watching the bad guys get their comeuppance on screen, but…not this way. It’s disgusting to watch. Now, I’m not saying it has to be done the way it was in Tarantino’s Death Proof, where Kurt Russell is getting pummelled with kicks and punches by the women he was tormenting. But, the way people were tortured here…I just can’t understand how there are folks out there that find this to be “entertainment.” This is torture porn, and it loses its focus on what could have been a fun story to watch. 

So while the first half of this movie was somewhat enjoyable (despite the gruesome scenes), the second half becomes a cliched mess.

I saw that one critic said, “This is the best of the Saw movies.” 

Uh, isn’t that like saying “Friday the 13th Part VI is the best of the Jason movies.”

2 stars out of 5.

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