Saw 3Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 10/27/06 22:12:06
Although I am certain that many critics are going to slam “Saw III” for being nothing more than a gory and depraved vomitorium designed to do nothing but separate slack-jawed teenagers from their lunch money (to say nothing of their lunch), that seems like a silly criticism because that is exactly the kind of movie that it was designed to be. My beef with the film is that it is a boring and predictable example of such a film. Leaving whatever tenuous grasp on logic that might have remained after the previous installments, this film is a lazy and incoherent exercise in blandly sadistic mayhem that doesn’t even live up to the less-than-sterling standard of other pointless Part III’s to horror films that hardly required a Part II in the first place.For those whose lives have been filled with enough love and joy to keep you from seeing the earlier films, the “Saw” saga concerns a maniacal killer known as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell). A grumpy old man suffering from terminal cancer, he has become enraged at the various ways in which other people squander the precious gift of life and he has made it his mission to teach these people the value of life. However, instead of writing bad inspirational poetry, he instead kidnaps people that he deems to be living unworthy and hooks them up to sadistic booby traps that will tear them into shreds unless they can figure out how to free themselves–this usually doesn’t happen and on the rare occasions when someone does successfully free themselves, they usually wind up leaving a lot of flesh and blood behind in the process. Imagine a nightmarish cross between Dr. Phil and your high-school shop teacher and you basically have Jigsaw. However, don’t imagine how one man, especially one on his deathbed, could possibly design and engineer the torture devices in question, a series of contraptions so elaborate that Rube Goldberg himself might have looked upon them and said something along the lines of “Dude, simplify!”
In “Saw,” we were told that Jigsaw was terminally ill and only had a short time to live. In “Saw II,” we were told that he was even sicker than before and that his shuffling off this mortal coil was imminent. Nevertheless, he is still kicking around, although he is now confined to the makeshift hospital room that he has installed in the elaborately fitted warehouse/torture chamber that he shares with former victim-turned-loyal apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith), a room that looks like a cross between the main locale of “Hostel” and the Mission Control set of “Armageddon.” After an endless prologue in which a couple of familiar faces are messily dispatched in an effort to boost the film’s running time, the story kicks in as Lynn (Bahar Soomekh), an emotionally distant doctor, is kidnapped from the hospital and taken to Jigsaw’s lair and forced to keep him alive so that he can witness the end of his latest collection of tortures. To ensure her compliance, he fits her with an explosive neck brace that is somehow connected to his heart monitor–if he goes, she goes boom. Not willing to argue with someone who takes his fiendish inspiration from terrible Rutger Hauer cable movies, Lynn agrees and eventually finds herself performing some impromptu brain salad surgery with a power drill to keep him going.
Meanwhile, in another part of the warehouse, Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) wakes up inside a wooden box and discovers that he is the latest victim of Jigsaw’s extremely tough-love therapy. Still consumed with grief over the death of his young son in a car accident and rage over the light sentence given to the perpetrator, Jeff has let his life spiral out of control and, according to Jigsaw, only several rounds of physical and emotional torture can set him straight. As he goes from room to room, Jeff comes across three people close to the crime–a key witness to the crime who refused to report the crime or testify, the judge who gave the killer the short sentence and, finally, the driver himself–shackled up in painful ways and he needs to decide whether to avenge his son by letting them die or forgive them by freeing them. This means, of course, that not only has Jigsaw managed to summon up the strength to design and install his elaborate constructions while in the final throes of a terminal disease, he has also become a crack criminal investigator as well in his spare time. If he doesn’t make you realize the precious value of life, at least Jigsaw can make you feel guilty for just staying in bed and watching DVDs of “The Office” the next time you come down with the sniffles.
Of course, you don’t really care about the by-the-numbers performances (I don’t want to say that Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw is a one-note characterization but not even a power drill and bone saw to the skull are able to change his facial expression in the slightest), sloppy plotting (in an effort to disguise how thin the story is, the plot is a fragmented jumble that even goes so far as to include flashbacks from the first “Saw” in an effort to patch some of the plot holes in that one) or the unbelievably murky visual style (so many scenes are shot in near-total darkness that you might suspect that Clint Eastwood was the director). No, all you want to know about are the details of the various torture scenes. This time around, we have a guy forced to yank out chains embedded in his skin in order to escape a bomb, a woman trapped in a corset-type contraption that will yank out her sides unless she retrieves a key from a vat of acid, a naked woman being doused with water while chained up in a freezer, a guy trapped in a contraption that suggests that Jigsaw must have made time to see “Fast Food Nation” and a black man ensnared on a combination crucifix/medieval rack that twists him apart. While it would be easy, very easy, to criticize these contraptions for their wild implausibility, my problem is that they lack any real ingenuity. Face it, after seeing the 37th close-up of a sobbing, sweating person tugging on something embedded in their flesh, the 38th kind of loses its impactAt the end of my review of “Saw II,” I offered up a suggestion for a potential plot for the then-unwritten “Saw III.” Even though the filmmakers chose not to use my idea, I nevertheless found myself speculating on potential premises for a potential “Saw IV” (and if the enormous crowd that attended the Thursday midnight screening I was at is any indication, we should be seeing it about a year from now). How about a prequel detailing the no-doubt-inspirational friendship between young Jigsaw and his high-school shop teacher? (Proposed subtitle–“Lathe And Let Die”) How about a bloody riff on the Jerry Lewis telethon where Jigsaw underscores his pleas for the preciousness of life by threatening to dismember Tony Orlando and Charo unless enough pledges come in? Finally, how about a film in which Jigsaw traps a movie audience inside a booby-trapped multiplex and puts them through the wringer to punish them for wasting their precious lives by going to crap like “Saw III”?
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