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Sunday, March 27, 2011

SAW VI (2009) - REVIEW


So close to the end, yet still so far away from a solid "Saw" movie. Since part V failed to generate the revenue they hoped for, it seems the studios decided to wrap it up quickly. Not that they would mind milking it for more money until the end of times, but it was fairly obvious that the box-office response part V received was cold enough to put the producers on guard regarding the future of further Saw sequels. So, they went and got themselves a new director, Kevin Greutert, the editor of the past five movies and decided to bring closure to Jigsaw's fans. There would only be this one and one more entry, called "Saw 3D". It's actually ironic in a way that “Saw VI”, for the first time in the past four movies, seemed to be heading in the right direction for a change.

Miss, I think you have the wrong
 franchise. This is "Saw", not "Scream".
This time, Jigsaw is big on politics. He single-handedly (plus apprentices) takes on the troublesome healthcare issue in the US. And yes, there will be blood. The grizzly game focuses on insurance executive William Easton (Peter Outerbridge), the typical corporate tool, who will have to pass a series of the late Jigsaw’s world-renowned chop-your-own-limbs-off tests. Since William’s job was all about finding ways for the insurance company to NOT pay for people’s ultra-expensive and risky medical treatments, thus holding the choice of life or death in the flick of his pen, this time he will be faced with the ultimate moral judgement as he must make the same choices while dealing face-to-face with people he knows as they are about to meet a horrible, gruesome death. The story flows smoothly for most of the running time, but you can also expect plenty of tie-ins with previous events in the franchise through flashbacks that will make no sense if you’ve missed all of the previous films. And of course there's the obligatory twist finale. If indeed you have missed some (or all) of the previous films and are trying to start with no. 6, you should just walk away. Either start from the beginning, or thoroughly read the Wikipedia articles, which contain extra-detailed summaries for all the films in the series (including the twists) and take notes. Oh, by the way, this movie has one of the most understated twist finale in the series. You almost see it coming, really. It's kind of refreshing, in a way, that the movie doesn't rely so heavily on the big surprise.

You're getting warmer.
Seemingly, not much has changed since the Saw-frenzy first started, but part VI seems to get some things right. “Saw V” was a self-indulgent mess, riddled with flashback sequences and terrible pacing. The series has forgotten all about cleverness after the first two-three films, so the only thing going for it is the entertainment provided by suspensful scenes where characters attempt to survive horrible traps by making equally horrible choices. These generally work efficiently, despite the gaping plot holes and bad acting. Whilst “Saw V” dropped the ball in that regard, this one, while still sillly and low on credibility, amps up the tension. This time, the choices are harsh, the life-or-death situations are suspensful and the traps significant in the context of the plot, which makes the film feel, at the very least, wickedly entertaining. Plus, having just one character facing the tests (William) puts us, the voyeurs, in the position to sympathize with him and be a part of the ride. It's something "Saw III" used to some effect, but here it works better. Throw in Detective Hoffman’s attempts to keep his identity hidden while William runs the maze of horrors, the prospect of a power struggle for Jigsaw's legacy, the oft-surprising satirical social commentary, and the short running time, and you have the makings of a fun bloody thriller. And, since the series' editor was assigned the director's chair, the editing job went to someone who actually turned this movie into less of a jumbled mess than the previous one. Less prone to induce headaches anyway.

"Oh dear, I pulled the wrong one !"
The acting is still rough around the edges, though it’s really not that big of an issue anymore. Everybody overacts or underacts, with the surprising exception of Peter Outerbridge's simple, balanced performance, neither over nor under the top. Tobin Bell is still pitch-perfect as Jigsaw, even though he's just there for a few flashbacks.

Sometimes, it almost feels like the franchise could use a bit of self-awareness. You get the sense that maybe if they played a little more with that, they could avoid all the critical bashing. The franchise started out dead serious, but now, after six movies and several ridiculous storylines, a little tongue-in-cheek would go a long way. So, in closing, I can safely say that part VI is better than III, IV and V. But, since VII, also called 3D, is the last in the franchise, it's just too little, too late. Now, if only they could bring Jigsaw back from the dead...





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