***1/2 (out of 5)
October 28, 2005
Tobin Bell as JIGSAW
Donnie Wahlberg as DET. ERIC MASON
Dina Meyer as KERRY
Shawnee Smith as AMANDA
Studio: Lion’s Gate Film
Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
After “Saw” became a surprise hit last year, I was terrified. Not of the movie itself, but instead of the string of sequels that would inevitably come.
Well, the first one is out, and only a year behind the original. And I’m sure I’m not giving anything away to say that they’re primed pretty nicely for “Saw III.” Coming soon to a theater near you next Halloween, I’m sure.
I will admit that the folks behind the “Saw” films have been giving at least a different twist on the genre. They’re not the greatest films of their ilk. They don’t quite make the intensity of “Se7en” or “The Silence of the Lambs.” But at least with these movies, it’s something a little different. And it’s better than a lot of the crummy horror films from earlier this year.
The funny thing about “Saw II” is that it gets off to a really rough start, and it never really redeems itself until the end. But do know that it does redeem itself, and that’s what makes it a worthwhile film.
The film opens with another dead body. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is back, kidnapping people and putting them in awful situations in the hopes that they will gain a greater appreciation for their life. However, instead of following a simple victim, this time there’s a new twist. The police capture Jigsaw in the first act.
This is the first of several nice twists on the genre. It also gives Tobin Bell a chance to have some fun and get more face time. The last time he got this much meat in a major release was as the creepy albino killer in “The Firm.”
However, the movie does fall into the doldrums soon. We’re introduced to a new slate of new victims, holed up in a house together, in one giant mousetrap. Among the victims is previous Jigsaw player Amanda (Shawnee Smith). It’s nice to see her emerge from obscurity. I’ve always liked her, going back to the cheesy “Blob” remake in the late 1980s. (There’s also a return of “Saw” eye candy Dina Meyer, whom I’ve had a thing for since “Dragonheart,” although she usually doesn’t show up in very good films.)
Unfortunately, most of the characters in the house are awful people. They’re argumentative, belligerent and downright irritating. Of course, you might be too if you were breathing in poison gas with only a slim chance of survival. However, I never really sympathized with them. I didn’t root for them either, so when they started to die off one by one, I didn’t feel too bad.
With Carey Elwes out of the picture, the new hero is played by Donnie Walburg. He’s trying to wrestle information from Jigsaw as the rest of the police helplessly watch the victims on video monitors. Walburg is pretty weak in this film. It’s not necessarily his fault, because the guy can act. He’s just not given much material to work with. His character is the standard crusty cop with some skullduggery in his past.
His son is one of the victims in the house, so he’s got a personal interest. But he handles himself so poorly that I felt more sympathy for the Jigsaw killer than I did for him.
There’s plenty of disturbing imagery, and the director throws in his fair share of gore. Avoid this one if you’re squeamish, but then again with a name like “Saw II” and a tagline like “Oh yes, there will be blood,” you’d be a fool to see it if you don’t have a strong stomach.
The cinematography is a bit over the top, often replacing flashy music-video editing with any real substance of style. The film is a bit weak in the middle, but it managed to pull out some really nice twists in the end. It’s a worthy follow-up to the underground hit from last year.