The final Saw movie came out in theaters this past weekend, promising to end the franchise with a giant, 3D explosion of gore and limbs. Unfortunately, the movie ended not with a bang, but with a whimper from Jigsaw's various mutilated victims, as they had their skulls pierced with sawed-off section of pipe and had their appendages torn off by science. There was no real sense of resolution, as the character deaths that were required of the film all felt quick and anti-climactic, and the ending was disappointingly left open for another installment with a new Jigsaw at the helm. Not that I expected The Return of the King, but even getting Jaws IV would have been nice.
Because of the continuing plot line of the films, and the fact that there have been six chapters before now, the movie actually has a "Previously On..." section, like we're watching a midseason episode of Desperate Housewives. We get to see how Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes) survived after cutting off his own foot in the first movie, and how Det. Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) escaped his trap set by Jigsaw's ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell) in the last movie. And since the franchise loves to show us old footage and promote from within, it instantly sets off alarm bells when the main plot line follows a new character, Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), who has turned being a Jigsaw survivor into a self-help career, despite the fact that we've never seen him get tortured. (Also, there can't be more than a dozen people on Earth who can relate to what he went through, which makes his near-death advice less than useful.) It's really just an excuse for the movie to get a bunch of vaguely recognizable Saw alumi together in one room, and to give Jigsaw a reason to want to eviscerate Dagen and everyone he knows.
Bobby's story is intercut with that of Matt Gibson, a new Internal Affairs detective who's hunting for Hoffman. Hoffman tells Gibson on video that he wants to kill Jill, and it's basically this cookie-cutter cop trying to figure out where he is and investigating his ancillary capers in the meantime. Continuing the "number of the movie equals number of victims" game, there are three people in a saw blade-festooned love-triangle trap at the beginning, and a four person neo-Nazi demolition derby (with Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington) a little ways in. Neither trap is particularly impressive in 3D, nor are any of the traps that get Dagen's friends, and the one that gets constantly replayed in the commercials -- Jill getting impaled by a rocket car -- is a blatant dream sequence. It bugs me that they had to come up with a fantasy trap, outside of the context of the film, to make the 3D look exciting.
Ultimately, one key person is killed, another is put in an impossible trap and one is allowed to walk away, but the killing is too quick, the trap too familiar and the sparing of the last person too undeserved to satisfy. Even the revelation of the new Jigsaw at the end felt like the same old tricks, and I certainly hope they don't try to make a Part 8; the disappointing box office seems to indicate that I'm not alone. If there had been anything visually inventive or even entertaining performance-wise about this entry, maybe it would have been worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, an abandoned factory isn't any cooler-looking in 3D, a skull getting crushed isn't that much more gruesome, and the acting definitely doesn't get any better -- in fact, it's high school play level at best. But at least the franchise lived as it died: muddy, bloody and cruddy.
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