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  Saw
James Wan, USA, 2004
Rating: 2.1
 

Posted: November 24, 2004

The setup: Two men wake up chained against separate walls in an extremely funky bathroom. The chains around their feet keep them tethered to large pipes. How did they get there? Who put them there? Why is Danny Glover playing a cop in this without Mel Gibson? Where did the killer get that cool puppet mask complete with articulating jaw? Does any of this really matter?

Saw is a little like the movie Seven, except without the great actors, excellent story and masterful use of suspense. So I guess it really ain't anything like Seven at all, although it's that movie's sanguine-colored stylistic atmosphere and genre that have been assassinated here. Saw, or, more precisely, the "jigsaw killer," is atop the police's most wanted list, although technically he has never actually killed anyone. You see, our fiendish mastermind concocts ways for his victims to kill themselves. For, example, our "killer" injects a man with poison. The antidote is outside a door. Only problem is, the guy's surrounded by twenty feet of razor wire that he must claw through to get to the door. See what I mean? It's that kind of wacky stuff.

Perhaps if director James Wan had played up that aspect of the film a bit more, it would have held my interest. Oh yes, before I forget -- the killer wears a big puppet head, and also has a smaller, full-bodied puppet with the same head. The big puppet head steals the show. When it's on the screen, you can't help but be transfixed by the enormous pate, the freaky tattoos, and the cold dead eyes. (Sort of like Laurence Station.) It is simply... mesmerizing.

Danny Glover plays a cop who has tracked the killer, and in the process gotten his partner killed, his own throat cut, and tossed off the force. I think he has about four lines in the film. Lemme tell ya, without Martin Riggs, there just ain't no need for Danny here. He looks like he was chained to a wall and forced to do this movie.

Anyway, the story involving the two men (one of whom is the film's screenwriter, Leigh Whannell) chained in the bathroom gets real old, real fast. After about fifteen minutes of their witless banter, you just hope that one of them kills the other one, soon. In keeping with the thematic works of his ghastly doings, the killer has provided each man with a hacksaw. The blade is too soft to cut through the chain, but it's just hard enough to cut through -- you guessed it -- a human ankle. Suffice it to say that one of the captives, Cary Elwes, does in fact saw his foot off and then slides his flabby ass across the dirty floor to sweet freedom. There's a big revelation following this scene, but to tell you the truth, everyone in the theater was too busy laughing to give it the requisite shocked reaction the contrived payoff so desperately begs for.

Really, the only things worth seeing here are the guy sawing off his foot, and Saw himself riding a tricycle while wearing an enormous puppet head. Who the killer is and what his motivations are seem totally irrelevant. When a giant puppet head is the star of the film -- well, do I even have to finish this sentence? Saw falls way, way short of its goal of creating a taut, suspenseful thriller and leaves the viewers feeling like they are in fact chained to their seats. Look, if I were chained in the theater and forced to watch this movie and the only way out was to saw off my foot, I'd do it. You would too. Trust me.

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 Clemenza's Ratings Key:

 5.0: A drop of bliss

 4.0-4.9: Touchdown!
 3.0-3.9: Close, but...
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