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Saw II(2005)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Starring:
Donnie Wahlberg/Det. Mason
Dina Meyer/Kerry
Shawnee Smith/Amanda
Tobin Bell/Jigsaw
7 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
Bitter cancer ridden serial killer Jigsaw (Bell) re-surfaces from whatever marble he was hiding under to play yet another round of his light hearted game of “How much blood will you shed to stay alive”? Feeling more ambitious this time around; he hits a double whammy, playing with a group of criminals trapped in a booby trapped house while having Detective Mason attached on his puppet strings (Wahlberg) via having kidnapped his son. Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock… the clock is ticking! Time to play!
THE LOWDOWN

Oh Yes, There Will Be Blood

Full Disclosure Thing: I have a tiny acting role in SAW 2 as the Video Techie (don’t sneeze or scratch your ass). But I believe that I am able to remain objective with this one, even with my minor link to the project. That is why I’m reviewing the film; otherwise I wouldn’t. It had to be said; let’s move on.

I was a huge fan and champion of the original SAW and I’ll be the first to admit that when I heard that a sequel was being prepped to be released only one year after the original; I was plagued with disturbing Nam flashbacks. Remember when the lukewarm Nightmare on Elm Street 5 was rushed out after Part 4 made so much money? How about when the ho hum Child’s Play 3 was spat our way in a jiffy after Child’s Play 2 hit Box Office gold? Yes, I feared the worst. Was SAW II also going to be a rushed, half baked effort, made to cash in on the first one's success? Well, now that I’ve seen the picture; I can finally answer that query; “no” it isn’t. It’s a quality heavy flick streamlined quickly to cash in on the first one's success. Nothing wrong with that!

SAW II was a relentless, enthusiastically directed and twisted little ditty that “Venus Fly Trapped” my privates at frame one and didn’t let go of them (poor boys) till the closing end credits. Just like any other good film, this continuation had a powerful weapon in its holster, one that Hollywood so often forgets to bring to the table when creating their “products” and that’s a strong screenplay. The bases were mostly covered in that department with riveting chain of events, a clever puzzle like nature when it came to its mind toying mystery, some heart (the Mason ordeal) and a near flawless juggling act in terms of the two main plot lines which were steamrolled forward simultaneously. To make matters much better; in the end, the flick brought all of it together with gusto, smarts and a couple of sly powerhouse twists in its trunk at that! I felt that! NICE! The same praise goes to the brutally amusing physical get-downs at play in this pen.Who wrote this stuff and who is their shrink? He should be fired and hired by me! Get ready for a hefty helping of inventive and mean spirited nastiness when it comes to the MANY kills in this bad boy. One magic “moment” in particular  (needles), actually had me squirming in my seat like a worm on two hooks. Good stuff!

Now being that this is a sequel, some of what made the original special was lost in the name of not fully repeating the first film while new goodies were gained. I particularly grooved to the “Hannibal Lecter/Clarice” like mental warfare Jigsaw and Mason shared. It made for a compelling listen/watch, was the soul of the film while acting as an interesting contrast to the more action oriented “in the house” shenanigans. The further exploration of my fav Bath Robe wearing killer’s psyche jazzed me as well! Although I craved more info (I still don’t know why Jigsaw is so freaking nuts!), the added insight was appreciated and went to prove me wrong. Knowing more about the lad didn’t make him less scary. Au contraire, I think I fear him more now! The guy’s off his rocker and then some! And did I mention the slew of tight references to the original SAW? Well I just did! On top of the growth of the Kerry (Dina Meyers) character and the kool re-inclusion of surviving Jigsaw victim Amanda (Shawnee Smith); the last block offered an awesome SAW Part 1 fanboy pleasing surprise (I won’t tell) that slapped a huge grin on my smug face. GOOD ONE! Lastly, yes, that creepy SAW doll made yet another chilling and RIP foretelling appearance. Who’s not happy? Love that tricycle! It so becomes the little bugger.

On the rusty side of the saw blade; since this sequel upped the ante on the formula of the original; we found ourselves with a lot more people to follow around. Say goodbye to the more intimate and character driven nature of the original that made me care so much and say hello to a semi surface and slasher like nature; namely when it came to the players locked in the house. Sadly the latter group was 85% despicable or/and whiny and they occasionally made the dumbest moves (Like gladly entering an oven within a house that everybody knows is booby trapped…duh!). To deepen the wound; some of the acting when it came to this lot was questionable in places. Result; .I didn’t root for any of them to make it out of that crib alive; I rooted for them to expire real freaking good. The upside is that, expire well they did. THANK YOU! Lastly; although the film’s slaying concepts were nifty, plasma heavy and deliciously appalling in places, the flick did occasionally shy away when it came to the “should be grisly graphic” payoffs. You see instead of showing us the coup de grace, they’d instead go into a frenzy of quick cuts to convey the end of the murder. Didn’t entirely work for me. And now that I think about it; there was actually one novel offing that began, drew red Karo to then never give us a true closing! Whatever happened to that character anyways? Only Jigsaw knows I guess…

When all was screamed and bloodied up though, SAW II lived up to its Daddy’s legacy when it came to an engaging storyline; potent surprises and sadistic ways of disposing of human waste. For better and for worse, where the first film was more of an evenly paced, character driven piece; this one moved fast, killed high and then killed some more! For those who thought SAW was too slow and low on casualties (I wasn't one of them), SAW II, its methamphetamine and bodycount charged little brother, should rectify that for ya! So you gonna saw off your foot? Your hand? Or your "BLEEP"! YOUR MOVE! LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

GORE
We get a head blown up (messy), wrist slitting, a nasty mishap with countless needles (Ouch!), a spiked bat in the cranium, a spike in the belly, skin cutting, a slit throat and lots of blood! Jigsaw wasn’t bullshitting; there was blood! Lots of it!
ACTING
Donnie Wahlberg (Det. Mason) played it smart; he underplayed it while displaying an endearing mix of toughness and vulnerability. Tobin Bell (Jigsaw) was mucho focused and controlled as the maniacal Jigsaw; lending the role ample believability in the process. I can’t imagine anybody else in the role! NOTE: Wahlberg and Bell wonderfully fed off each other; making their scenes together quite captivating to witness. Dina Meyer (Kerry) did what she had to do adequately most of the time, although I didn’t buy a couple of her “reaction shots” and wished she’d do more than stare at PC screens. Shawnee Smith (Amanda) was bang on in her role; selling it to the max. I’m so happy they brought her back and gave her more to do.
T & A
Dina Meyer kept it on….all on…dammit. I kept wishing for a gratuitous “Cop Locker Room” scene to kick in or something. Back to Starship Troopers and my trusty jar of Vaseline I go! NOTE: Will that Jigsaw doll ever take off his top?
DIRECTING
Although not as kinetic as the original, newcomer Darren Lynn Bousman injected enough dread filled mood, engaging cam movements, tension laced sequences and inspired angles (loved that under hand through the blood stained glass plate shot) to fill the bill! NOTE: Somebody needs to tell that editor to ease down on the quick cut madness a tad; some bits lost some impact since I wasn't given the time to fully register what I was seeing.
SOUNDTRACK
Saw composer Charlie Clouser comes through again with a down, dirty yet at times melodic score. Grade A!
BOTTOM LINE
Although it didn’t beat the original for me; this sequel still delivered the goods! It boldly unraveled its tale in a machine gun pace while bombarding us with f*cked up situations, fairly sick kills, sucker punching plot turns, fanboy pleasing nods to the first film and additional gripping insight in the grey matter that resides within Jigsaw’s skull. I will admit that meatier (and in places, smarter) characters, less quick cuts and further “in your face the whole way” gore would’ve made my day a better one, but that’s just me! With that said SAW II was a tight and entertaining sequel, one that thankfully left the oven door wide open for a Part 3. You know what, if they keep the Jig up at this level! Bring the SAW back! I’m game!
BULL'S EYE
The SAW II screenplay was sprung off a non-Saw script by Darren Lynn Bousman. He, Leigh Whannel and I hear even an uncredited James Wan worked the screenplay together and turned it into SAW II.

The film was shot in 25 days for a reported 4 Million clams in Toronto, Canada.

Look out for the "Last House on the Left" reference in the film.

Donnie Wahlberg will also star in James Wan’s follow up to SAW called SILENCE. He plays yet another detective.

READ ABOUT THE ARROW'S STINT ON SAW II HERE

READ PRODUCER GREGG HOFFMAN'S PROD DIARIES HERE

VISIT THE OFFICIAL SAW II SITE HERE