Rated | Alphabetical
James Wan, USA, 2004
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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