***1/2 (out of 5)
October 23, 2009
Tobin Bell as JIGSAW
Costas Mandylor as HOFFMAN
Mark Rolston as ERICKSON
Betsy Russell as JILL
Shawnee Smith as AMANDA
Directed by: Kevin Greutert
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
The “Saw” movies make me feel like a broken record because I say the same thing in almost every review. Each time, I feel like I’m making a confession, letting everyone know that I break with the opinion of most critics because I have enjoyed the series since its beginning. Then I go on to say all the same things: it’s gory and violent (and if you don’t know that, you deserve to be sickened), it’s not for the squeamish, it’s got a twisted moral behind it and I like what they’re doing with the series.
“Saw VI” is no exception. While the series has wavered in quality from the decent to the pretty good, there hasn’t been that much swing to it. The entire series is a cinematic anomaly because all six films seem to be of similar quality, making it the most consistent franchise I have ever seen.
Like its predecessors, “Saw VI” opens at the very end of the previous film. Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has taken over the work of the grisly serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), but there’s also some help form Jigsaw’s widow Jill (Betsy Russell). The target for this game is a health insurance mogul who has made a killing denying claims to people in need. Now Jigsaw, through his after-death agent Hoffman, is teaching the man a lesson.
What has constantly impressed me about this series is the ability to keep things fresh. Sure, we’re given some of the many cliches and stand-bys that have made the series popular. There are the Rube Goldberg devices of torture and mutilation that we would expect. However, there’s a lot more going on with the characters behind the story than just a psycho killer and his minions.
The character of Jigsaw has always offered a certain twisted morality. You may not agree with it, but it will get you to think about what you value in your life. Also, more so than ever before, this movie puts a face to some of the nasty decisions that many people deal with. The targets of Jigsaw’s games in this film are those involved in the health insurance industry and the predatory lending field of the mortgage industry. At one point, I thought Michael Moore had gone insane and written the script.
Normally, I’m not a big fan of a piece of popular culture trying to be relevant, but this didn’t bother me in “Saw VI.” Health insurance companies and predatory lenders are easy targets, but the story does have a certain thing to say about how these industries look at human beings as numbers and profit cash cows rather than people.
At one point in the movie, I did roll my eyes and think that the movie might be going too far. But then I thought back to the other five films and realized they had been going too far for years. And that’s what makes them still edgy.
Of course, there are some problems. Costas Mandylor is a truly awful actor that doesn’t hold a candle to Tobin Bell. But these films have never been known for their acting. After all, the series begins with Cary Elwes in a tour-de-force of chewing the scenery.
Over the course of six films, the plot has become so twisted around that it is almost inconceivable. Still, you should refresh yourself by watching the previous films if you haven’t seen them because a lot hinges upon remembering what’s happened as far back as “Saw III.”
Still, the movie has some really sweet twists in it (even if they are a bit predictable), and it opens some interesting doors for the next film.