Review – Saw VI

Strahm is dead, but the FBI are still closing in on Hoffman. Meanwhile, somebody else who is unappreciative of life finds themselves caught up in the game.The body of agent Peter Strahm has been disassembled back into flat-pack form, and it would appear that the world’s worst detective, Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), is now home and dry as Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) successor. Just to be safe though, Hoffman goes above and beyond to attempt to frame Strahm as Jigsaw’s little helper. However, he gets a shock when he finds out that Strahm’s partner, Lindsey Perez (Athena Karkanis) didn’t actually die in a previous trap – a potential problem as she doesn’t believe her late partner was capable of doing what he is being accused of. The net then begins to tighten around Hoffman when the FBI set to work on unscrambling a tape left at one of the previous murder scenes – the one thing that could solidly confirm his involvement. Elsewhere, the unethical CEO of a health insurance company finds himself being put to the test after gambling with other people’s lives as a career.

Okay, I’ll pre-warn you that I can feel a rant coming on here. Yes, one similar to that I embarked upon about The Hills Have Eyes. I watched Saw VI. It was inevitable that as I worked my way through the franchise, they were gradually going to get worse. Holy God though. I had severely underestimated how bad they could get.

I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time talking about performances here. The one performance I like was that by Costas Mandylor, and I spoke about that in my last review. This, of course, leaves the insurance CEO who I cared so little about that I don’t even know his name, nor the face of the bloke who played him, so I couldn’t really talk about him even if I’d have wanted to.

My main question is what was this film actually trying to do besides rob movie-goers of their money? I am somewhat bemused by the objectives this film set out to achieve. There was no longer the great Strahm/Hoffman face-off going on as they decided to kill of one half of that double act in the last film, so I wasn’t really that invested in the storyline anymore either. They then tried to be clever by bringing back a character who had previously been killed – or so we thought. I wasn’t that impressed by the return of agent Perez. To be honest, I think my reaction to the revelation was about on a par with Hoffman’s.

At this point, I am also so over this idea that the Jigsaw squad are out to teach people a lesson about how they should value life. I feel like once the FBI got brought in in film four, the writers should have fully broken away from the original concept. I mean, they attempted it, but the little subplots such as the Fatal Five in the last film, and then the insurance guy in this one makes it feel as though the filmmakers don’t really know what other direction they could take the story in. For me, watching the same thing for the sixth time with only a tiny bit of plot progression was boring. Plus, it feels like there is a reliance on putting an individual through the mill for some part of the film. It’s as if the writers know that the general storyline has swayed so far from what it once was, yet they’re still trying to market the franchise on what it used to be. They needed to choose one or the other if you ask me, because the storyline consisting of traps that were used as weapons against Jigsaw’s pursuers alongside the traps that supposedly taught life lessons did not work for me. Or, if they were that insistent on keeping those two aspects of the story alive, they should have at least made more of an effort to weave the two together.

On the whole, it is with a not-so heavy heart that I have to tell you that Saw VI is easily the worst film of the franchise so far. It cannot survive on just one character, and fails in trying to tell this part of the story which you could say has gotten too big for it to even know what it is about anymore. However, I’ve come this far – Saw 3D (or The Final Chapter) will still be watched. After all, it can’t be any morse than this… surely?


Review – Saw V

With Jigsaw now dead, it is up to an FBI agent to delve into the past of a man whom he has long believed to be involved with the murders.Picking up where the previous film left off, agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) is determined to prove that Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is the man on the inside that has been helping Jigsaw all along. Meanwhile, another five strangers are put to the test.

So, Saw V… I think it is clear with this film that this was when the franchise had begun to over-reach itself. It tells yet another side of the story started in Saw II and then continued in the next two films. I guess it’s good that they cover all angles with each character, but surely they didn’t need a fourth film spent on the same story to do this?

I think the saving grace here was the two lead performances put in by Scott Patterson and Costas Mandylor. I spoke about Patterson’s role as Strahm in my previous review of Saw IV so I shan’t bang on about him again. However, I will talk about Mandylor’s wonderful turn as Detective Mark Hoffman. It’s not the first time he’s appeared in the franchise, but it is with this film we get a real feel for the sort of character Hoffman is as this is the film that tells his version events. Mandylor makes Hoffman the exact type of character I love – a right nasty piece of work that no-one can seem to catch, no matter what he does – so regardless of how the final two in the series turn out, if Hoffman remains a prominent figure, I shall be quite happy..

It is the general structure of this film that has me most puzzled, I think. Firstly, what felt like the majority of the Strahm/Hoffman segment is footage taken from previous films. I have to admit that this felt lazy as anything, and it is the reason I would say the franchise is, at this point, beginning to feel a little tired. The second thing is the whole ‘Fatal Five’ thing – the five strangers we see fighting it out to the death in the film. this just felt like a side story that just didn’t belong with the Strahm/Hoffman cat-and-mouse chase. In fact, if you discount how the two scenarios were very clumsily put together at the end, they kind of didn’t go together at all. However, I must admit that something happened for me throughout the course of the film that meant I can live with the faults it has. Had I have been one of the chosen five, we would all have lived is all I shall say – I had the solution to that trap down very early on. There you go, Jigsaw – your turn, mate.

On the whole, I can’t say that I was overly impressed by Saw V. It simply expanded upon the story it had told before whilst trying to also tell the story of another group of people who had no real relevance to what was already going on, Two characters and the two actors playing them carried the film for me, but, given the ending, it would appear that the rest of the franchise is going to be left on the shoulders of just one of these two. Oh well, I soldier onwards…

Review – Saw III

Jigsaw kidnaps a doctor to perform a life saving procedure whilst his apprentice puts an unlucky citizen through a brutal test of character.

Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) has gone to ground, and now he is aided by his new apprentice, Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith). However, the cancer patient knows time is running out for him, and without medical help, this could happen sooner than first thought. Of course, he can’t just turn up at the local city hospital – he must instead bring the hospital to him. Dr. Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) is unaware that she is to become the latest pawn in the puppeteer’s games, and one night after her shift, he is kidnapped by the deranged Amanda in a last ditch, desperate attempt to prolong Jigsaw’s life so that he can continue playing. Lynn’s life depends on Jigsaw’s life, so she must keep him alive if she also wishes to remain so. How long must she keep his heart beating? Until another of his victims, Jeff (Angus Macfadyen), completes his own game.

So, I made it through the third instalment of the Saw franchise, and again, it is another film that I quite enjoyed. This film is where the saga begins to take a different direction, and I have to say that I think the change in tack has been handled rather well.

Tobin Bell once again had quite a prominent role in this film as Jigsaw, although his performance was a lot more subdued here as his character lay close to death throughout the film. However, there was still no doubting the man’s dangerous status. He was the ultimate puppeteer here, and it is perhaps in this film that you can see the true clarity of his vision as he tries to pass his mission onto someone else.

Shawnee Smith was kind of fascinating to watch as Jigsaw’s apprentice, Amanda Young. In this film, we learn more about her relationship with the killer, starting from the point when she passed her test. Smith worked well with the script to show how vulnerable Amanda was, and the backstory observed here showed the true extent of how Jigsaw made her one of his biggest victims. The story and the way it was acted out made it quite easy to empathise with the character of Amanda, and I think this made the ending of the film slightly more shocking than it perhaps would have been if it wasn’t for the in-depth narrative that went on throughout it.

I must admit that the storyline here is starting to become quite clever, although if it wasn’t for someone telling me roughly what would happen beforehand, I may not have picked up on this. For those of you who don’t know by now, I can be a lot like Stevie Wonder when it comes to clever storylines and plot twists. Saw II goes through Jigsaw’s story, whereas Saw III, this film, shows Amanda’s side of events, but takes place a little while after the events of film two. In my honest opinion, I do think it is rather well done, so I’ll award the writers a pat on the back for their efforts here. Bravo!

All in all, I believe Saw III to be another solid addition to the franchise. I thought the way it played with the different point of view was an intriguing way to tell the story. It also meant that the film challenged the viewer in a different way, as this time, it was not only the traps I was trying to get my head around.

Review – Saw II

A team of detectives must work out how to save eight people trapped in a factory by the now notorious serial killer, Jigsaw.Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) is called to the murder scene of one of Jigsaw’s latest victims. There he finds a lead which takes him and his colleagues to the killer’s hiding place, where it is later discovered by Eric that Jigsaw actually has his son. However, it’s not only Eric’s son Jigsaw has captive in a disused factory somewhere – he is also teaching another seven people a lesson as well. Eric begins to investigate the full story with Jigsaw, but he and the team don’t have long to put together a decent picture and figure out where the prisoners are being held. As long as his victims are trapped inside the factory, they are inhaling a deadly nerve gas. There is only two hours before they begin to drop like flies, which doesn’t allow Eric an awful lot of time to save his son.

After recapping the first instalment in the franchise, I very quickly moved onto Saw II, and found myself to be slightly more impressed by the gore in it. It is in this film that we start to be able to comprehend the sheer scale of the operation Jigsaw is running, and where we begin to see the story unfold that explains to us some of the motives behind the crimes.

So it is here that we are introduced to some characters that have recurring roles in the franchise, and obviously the actors who play them generally have a more prominent role in the grand scheme of the whole franchise. Donnie Wahlberg is watchable here, but there is little difference between him and all of your other average hard-boiled detectives. That being said, I did find myself vouching for him when he started getting his way with his investigation into where his son was being kept. What can I say? I am a sucker for a run of the mill cop.

We are also properly introduced to John Kramer/Jigsaw himself. Tobin Bell plays the now notorious serial killer, and he is quite good as he really begins to play God with his victims. The story Jigsaw has to tell as to why he does what he does, and the way Bell gets it across goes a long way to make you think about how you take so many things for granted. It kind of makes the film a lot heavier than most.

You have to admire the balls of the creators of these films. It must take a lot of imagination to come up with these traps, and to be able to put them together on screen, and for the links between them all to make sense. It would be very easy to get lost in all the details and make something that is altogether too clever for it’s own good, so you kind of have to commend all of the people on board. the co-ordination between the writers and technical department must be phenomenal to make the ideas go from paper to real life.

Overall, if you enjoyed the first film and want to see what Jigsaw did next, you’ll need to see Saw II to fulfil those cravings. For those of you who were anything like me the first time I watched the original film, you will find that your thirst for blood is slightly more quenched by the end of this one. It is set on a grander scale than it’s predecessor, although it does slightly lose the Se7en-esque feel that the former had in the bag. Nonetheless, if the whole franchise is what takes your fancy, the second instalment is somewhat essential.

Short Sessions – Dirty Books

When a high school newspaper is threatened to be turned into an online blog, it’s editor-in-chief seeks out a story to save it – even if the story is completely untrue.

Following an out-of-the-blue email the other night, over the next few weeks I shall be reviewing a series of short film that were sent to me. The first of these films was Dirty Books – a tale of the struggles we can face during high school. I found the film to be quite relatable as it made a statement about the way many teenagers can feel during those tricky high school years.

For me, the film centred around one character, David Burroughs, played by Noah Bailey. David was the editor-in-chief of the newspaper that was under threat. I must admit that I found this character to be quite obnoxious, however upon reflection, I came to the conclusion that he is not so different to myself, or in fact every other adolescent going through the latter stages of their education. Personally, I thought Bailey showed the selfishness that covers up all of the other insecurities and anxieties of teenage years very well. He did so in a way that you kind of hated his character at the start, but forgave him when he let down that wall and showed how he really felt. At the end of the day, the one thing that David felt gave him a purpose was being threatened. Without the newspaper, he felt he would have nothing, and would therefore mean nothing to the school, so it’s understandable that he reacted that way.

While the story was quite typical of one where someone’s actions eventually come back to bite them, it was done quite well. Again, it showed something that is really part of the of the whole essence of teenage years – thinking that something is a great idea at the time, but massively regretting it later one. I think director Zachary Lapierre did a wonderful job of portraying so many different aspects of these years in such a short space of time.

All in all, Dirty Books is an honest coming-of-age tale that does a good job of showing the struggles of those high school/teenage years. For anyone who has a spare fifteen minutes, I would recommend they watch this short. It is a wonderful way of using young actors in a context that we can all relate to to some degree.