Review: Kevin Greutert's Saw 3D Blows Up the Idea of Simplicity
by Jeremy Kirk
October 29, 2010
The word "simplicity" has been cut up, torn apart, bled out, and, with the latest entry into the ever-going Saw franchise, blown up. The idea of two people trapped in a room, one having to find a way, any way, to kill the other in order to save his family has long gone. At this point, though, anyone who ventures into a theater to see a Saw film knows precisely what they're getting, and, unfortunately, the people behind Saw 3D don't bother to shake things up too much. At least, not until the nearly redeeming final 10 minutes.
But that seems to be the structure for the Saw films for some time now. You have your A story, the one that follows the legacy of the serial killer, Jigsaw, still played in flashback by Tobin Bell despite the character being dead now for five films. The battle rages on in Saw 3D, as Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), Jigsaw's apprentice who has resorted to out-and-out murder in order to keep his little secret, searches for Jigsaw's ex-wife, Jill (Betsy Russell). This time around, Jill has gone to the police. She has revealed Hoffman's secret, and the manhunt begins for him as he makes every attempt at finding her for a little bloody revenge.
Meanwhile, back at the warehouse, the B story, the one that typically introduces a new character and has that character venture from room to room, trap to trap, rolls on. Jigsaw's subject this time around is Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), a man who has written a novel about his survival of one of Jigsaw's traps. Bobby has also formed a survivor's self-help group, a concept that allows for some familiar faces, some going all the way back to the first film, to pop up. But Bobby, like all good Saw movie protagonists, has a secret, and it's one that he is about to pay for.
As with the most recent Saw films, these two storylines have a difficult time converging. With the earlier films, the two seemed to correlate, bouncing off one another to build the tension. At this point, the B story seems to be there simply as a diversion for the A story. The film makers, behind Saw 3D, director Kevin Greutert and screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, don't seem to have enough story for either parallel narrative, and the two only seem to serve in the best interests of the film's running time.
Of course, it doesn't help how episodic the B story feels. Bobby walks through a building, going into room after room, and partaking in trap after trap that almost seem impossible. Long gone are the days where the traps are timed out, evenly paced, and the main character has 60 minutes to mull over the possibility of what he is going to do and how he is going to get out of this one trap. The people behind these latest Saw entries think that bigger is better. The more complex the trap, the more sinister it is, but looking at all of these hydraulic and pulley-based contraptions only makes you wonder how many vocational schools Jigsaw and his apprentices went to. This time around the simplicity of the traps even give way to machine guns on turrets and ample amounts of explosives.
Sure, those contraptions work like a charm. When the red stuff gets going, it really gets going. Saw 3D, though the usage of 3D is meaningless here, only gimmick in name only, might be the most splatter-heavy Saw film to date. When spikes go into people's heads or when arms or legs gets ripped apart, the squelching sound and the blood-letting almost feel like something out of Italian horror. Horror fans will be appreciative of that, and, for most, that will simply be enough to allow the film to get by. Unfortunately, the Saw films have also delivered on the soap opera complexity of their narratives in the past, as well, and that's simply lacking here.
There are moments that bring up certain interests. The notion of Jigsaw targeting the idea of celebrity by going after someone who has made a name off the murders is intriguing. The concept of putting PR people into sadistic torture devices might bring a smile to some faces. The most interesting moment in Saw 3D comes as a flashback, one of only a few scenes that actually features Tobin Bell. Jigsaw visits Bobby on his promotional tour for his book, gets a copy of Bobby's book signed, and has a few choice words about dishonesty. It works so well, because Bell can simply play this role in his sleep at this point. He seems to be having fun in that moment, something only he seems to be able to bring to the Saw table.
Of course, in the past, if the B story didn't satisfy, the A story surely carried the film. Not true here, either. The idea of Hoffman seeking revenge against Jill after the events that ended Saw VI is definitely an interesting concept. Sadly, much of this story involves an internal affairs detective, awkwardly played by Chad Donella, also going from location to location picking up clues here and there that could lead him to Hoffman. Mandylor's Hoffman has been relegated to appearing over random videos that pop up. They even throw in an uncharacteristic dream sequence that serves no purpose but to tease someone's death. It isn't until the final act that this story line gets remotely interesting. Once it does, though, in the final 15 minutes of the movie, more of the story than not comes together swimmingly.
And that seems to be another motif with Saw. Hit ’em hard in the end, and the ending of Saw 3D, though nowhere near the conclusion to the series as the ads have been promising, does just that. Certain fans of the franchise might know where it's heading, and the ultimate reveal might not shock and awe like it should, but the way everything comes full circle can be seen as nothing less than outright satisfying. And, when all is said and done, maybe that's where the merits of the Saw films really lie. A series of seven, 10-minute segments, all big reveals in the end. Everything leading up to that moment, like the word "simplicity", can be ripped apart limb from limb. Saw 3D, as with all the Saw films, ends not with a whimper but with a bang. It's that bang that almost redeems the gory tedium that comes before it.
Jeremy's Rating: 4.5 out of 10