Review: Kevin Greutert's Saw 3D Blows Up the Idea of Simplicity

October 29, 2010

Saw 3D Review

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

Find more posts: Opinions, Review



Franchise fell apart after James Wan left = FACT

nelson on Oct 29, 2010


still going to see it next week, i have been watching them all since the first one and still don't plan on skipping this one......'

Jericho on Oct 29, 2010


only movie in this franchise worth ANYTHING is the first one

josh on Oct 29, 2010


People bitch about all of the films, my wife and I love the series. This review changes nothing.

Dresden on Oct 30, 2010


I liked the movie. The gore flying at you in 3D was funny as hell, the death scenes were brutal (though my friend and I figured out how someone could get out of at least 3 of them lol), the special effects (with the exception of the first death scene) were great, and the ending was awesome enough that I hope for another Saw movie just I can see how the story would continue. The only problems I had with the movie was it was predictable. When I can predict plot hints and such that's saying something. I give it 4 out of 5 stars (the ending really does make the movie worth it).

JeepFu on Oct 30, 2010


The ending might have been a good concept, except for how lazily it was done.

Al on Oct 30, 2010


Best Saw movie ever in my mind! Review was a little harsh if you ask me I mean compare to any other Horror series and this one wins hands down. Its sophistacated compared to most horror movies these days. Sure not everythings perfect and there might be a couple of wholes here and there but overall the saw series is pretty awesome! I know there not the best films in the world but I just take them for what they are and I am happy that this was the decade of the Saw series! Each decade has their own horror (80's Jason/freddy, 90's Scream and now Saw) But there is one thing I agree with the Review is that Tobin Bell is perfect as Jigsaw and each film he gets better and better Saw 3D needed more JIGSAW for sure! The ending was abesolutly perfect and it felt like a proper ending, end it where it all began!

N. on Oct 30, 2010


critics just make asses of themselves when they take on SAW films. The last two were the best sequels of the bunch, and the audiences agree. of course they're not perfect cinema, but they aim to entertain in an ernest manner that most film makers have forgotten about.

henry flowers on Oct 31, 2010


I was looking forward to this picture a lot the big mistake was killing Tobin Bell Charicter off so early in the films he could have Added more to the rest of the film instead of looking at flash backs.

Cineprog on Oct 31, 2010


I was a late comer to the Saw franchise. Came in around Saw V but watched all of them. I enjoyed the series and was looking forward to this one. However, and this is just my opinion, it just seemed the whole movie was done effortlessly. The writing, the acting, the dialoge. It was a good concept, and I agree that Story A had nothing to do with Story B, but it just didn't feel the same. The traps were not really that creative or medival like the ones previously, I hated seeing a poor atempt of trying to bring in a character like an Agent Strahm ( in Detective Gibson). This was just a poor attempt in what I consider a great franchise. It kind of felt like the writers were running out of ideas. The end did tie up nicely, but you could see the outcome from a mile away, you knew how it was gonna end, you just didn't know exactly how it was gonna tie all in. The series killed off Tobin Bell way too early and it didn't end with too much of a surprise. Saying that, I still enjoyed the series and I'm glad I finally came around to watching these. But I can also see this series making it's way back to the screen in a couple years. Game Over, not yet.

the douche on Nov 1, 2010


God that actor that played the younger detective was soooooo terrible. Where do they find thesse guys? That guy obviously could only be in a Saw movie.

Kyle on Nov 3, 2010


I loved this movie. This one, the 1st and the 6th were my favorite but I still love them all. The best horror franchise hands down. The ending to this however was a bit iffy, I liked it but thought it was sorta cheesy at the same time. The ending happened all too quickly, and left some questions unanswered like **SPOILER ALERT** the other two people in pigs masks alongside Elwes when Hoffman is attacked at the end. They could end the series like that I guess, but I prefer they have one more movie, or even a short film because all I really want to know is who they were, and if Elwes ever let his family know that he was still alive. Overall though I give it: 7.5/10 (I will give it an 8, possibly an 8.5 if they make an 8th with a better ending).

Peace Love & GaGa on Nov 11, 2010

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