Jigsaw review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Despite the change in title, Jigsaw is no reboot, remake, or reimagining of the Saw horror franchise. It’s certainly not a welcome return of a sequel either, in the same way that Rocky Balboa or Rocky returned after many years with a fresh take. No, Jigsaw merely spins its sharp and grinding gears once more to be little more than Saw 8. And with such a confounding plotting of this messy revenge saga of elaborate traps, the blade has gone dull.
It’s back to basics for the Saw series in a story that manages to be routine, twisty, and forgettable. A new group of people finds themselves trapped inside an old mill, awaking to discover they’re placed in more of the Jigsaw Killer’s deadly traps. These traps include being drug by a chain into spinning buzzsaws and having one’s leg twisted in wire to eventually slice off the limb. Of course, all traps can only be escaped if the prisoners admit to their sins and sacrifice something to survive. Through the warped mechanics of the buzzsaw game, you have to let the saw cut you once in order to be set free. You may have to cut off a limb to save someone else. But the traps lose their allure in their conception. How can the film feature such an elaborate twister of a motorcycle-themed trap where the trapped must reach through whirling blades but also a lazier one where two people are trapped in a corn silo with random sharp objects tossed down a vent at them? Jigsaw is getting sloppy in his old age.
Oh, but Jigsaw has been dead for four movies. Surprise, he’s not. But is it really a surprise? Even after his character’s demise, Tobin Bell has always been present in recordings he left behind and flashbacks that keep bringing him into the fold. Of course, he’d have to come back from the dead and the script, of course, chooses a dopey twist to explain away his death being faked. Should we expect anything less from the Saw saga at this point?
And then there’s the dreary detective angle, staged far too much like a procedural cop drama than it should be. Police amble about the office trying to piece together the Jigsaw Killer’s patterns. And, oh, surprise again, some of the officials are either corruptly working for or trying to duplicate the Jigsaw Killer. Again. What’s so attractive about this killer that everyone wants to steal his thunder? Are they jealous of his pathos? Do they want to figure out how an old man with cancer has the strength, knowledge, and resources to create such ridiculously genius traps?
Jigsaw tries far too hard to be surprising and twisty and yet still comes up short. The traps are not as creative, lacking the cleverness of punishing specific people for their sins. But the sins we’re talking about here are those of baby killing, sending people to their deaths, and falsely imprisoning people. How do you build tortures around that without turning the film far too dark? It’s not like Jigsaw is going to stoop to having the murdering mother fish a key out of her womb with a rusty coat hanger. But maybe it should if only to make me hate the film more for being deplorable than boring.
As I said, don’t be fooled by the title. This is Saw 8 and the most tiresome of the lot, still doing its usual farfetched plotting of juggling characters and plot twists to an absurd degree, with less bite than ever.