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Jigsaw (Movie Review)

Jigsaw (Movie Review)
10.27.2017by: Eric Walkuski
5 10

PLOT: As has happened many times in the past, Jigsaw is doling out brutal life lessons at the expense of a group of shady captives.

REVIEW: Perhaps it was just wishful thinking - though more likely it was naivety - but I actually went into JIGSAW thinking it might reinvigorate the franchise. Take for example its directors, the talented Spierig Brothers, who've made such compelling movies as PREDESTINATION and DAYBREAKERS. Then consider the fact this franchise is being dusted off after a hiatus of seven years; surely the producers wouldn't put us back in the torture chamber without a semi-intriguing new twist, a fresh coat of paint, a reason for being. Surely it wouldn't be the same old thing.

But it is. While maybe a little less grimy and torture porn-filled than the others, JIGSAW is ultimately just another SAW movie, offering next to nothing surprising. It's diverting enough, as far as these things go, and a rule or two have changed, but anyone seeking an honest-to-goodness fresh take on the material will be left wanting. JIGSAW operates much on the same level as the franchise's middle-of-the-road entries. Certainly not among the best, not one of the worst. Take that for what it's worth.

If, however, you're a fan of the SAW movies and have been wanting things to go back to the way they were, then most of your wishes will come true. We have the central mystery/trap-fest, focusing on a group of people who wake up without knowledge of where they are or why they're being punished (though of course they all have dirty secrets) while a police investigation unfolds against a ticking clock. And, of course, there's Jigsaw (voiced by Tobin Bell), who once again is sending messages to both the torture victims and police from seemingly beyond the grave. (He died at the end of 3, this is part 8.) Is he somehow still alive even after having his head blown off? Is a copycat killer to blame? Another Jigsaw acolyte?

The setting for Jigsaw's latest foray into teaching valuable lessons is an isolated barn, where all sorts of rusty, bladed implements are around to make mincemeat out of our morally-compromised captives. Like most entries before this one, the victims are a mostly unsympathetic lot who eventually get on our nerves with all the screaming and bickering they do. For their part, the authority figures aren't much better, with the lead detective on the case being a corrupt cop who breaks the law whenever he can. There's also a twisted medical examiner who has an unhealthy obsession with Jigsaw and an army vet who suffers from PTSD and grief over his wife's death. So many suspects! Also, so many clues, so many tangled backstories and flashbacks and time leaps. In true SAW tradition, almost all of the film's events are incredibly conveniently-timed and/or coincidental.

The traps around aren't quite as grotesque as they have been in previous films; they're fairly lightweight for the series. That said, plenty of gruesomeness to be found here, like blasted-off faces, chopped up bodies, cut off legs, etc. To its credit, what interests the movie more than mindless gore is the mystery behind what's going on; putting the pieces together (pun intended) and figuring out who is behind this latest round of madness. The screenplay does a lot of gymnastics to make its convoluted story as airtight as possible. Sadly, the answer to the mystery isn't exactly rousing. As has happened seven times before, we get a prolonged explanation as to how/why all of this has happened (with Charlie Clouser's memorable theme pounding in the background, natch), but the explanation is neither all that shocking nor all that imaginative. Most disheartening of all, the very end leaves us with the threat that more of this more-of-the-sameness is on the way.

Technically, the film is well made and sharply directed by The Spierigs. JIGSAW has a brighter, more professional sheen on it than did the last couple of entries; at least we can always see what's going on to whom and where everyone is in relation to each other. The cast is capable and does what it can with characters who aren't exactly mesmerizing. As mentioned, if this has been your thing in the past, JIGSAW should more or less deliver for you. If, however, you've been weary of this series even since its heyday, the film won't do anything to change your stance.

Extra Tidbit: JIGSAW opens October 27th

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