***1/2 (out of 5)
October 24, 2008
Tobin Bell as JIGSAW
Costas Mandylor as HOFFMAN
Scott Patterson as AGENT STRAHM
Betsy Russell as JILL
Julie Benz as BRIT
Meagan Good as LUBA
Directed by: David Hackl
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I know that I am breaking with a lot of stuffy film critics out there, but I really have enjoyed the “Saw” movies. Even into its fifth film, I’ve found them to be generally entertaining (if not a little uneasy to watch at times) and usually more thought-provoking than many people give them credit.
The “Saw” franchise has become a Halloween tradition, with a new movie opening right before the last weekend of October. This has proved to be a powerful formula for the Lionsgate studios. The franchise has also weathered the storm through the crumbling of the “torture porn” genre and managed to still stay on top.
Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) may have died two movies ago, but that doesn’t stop the murders from happening. And even though his protege Amanda (Shawnee Smith) died along with him, there is another apprentice to carry on his work. Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) was revealed as the new apprentice in the previous film, and this movie focuses on his relationship with Jigsaw and how they began working together.
Even though the “Saw” films have been dismissed as ultra-violent garbage, there’s more to them than just complicated ways to murder people. There’s a bizarre underlying morality to Jigsaw’s madness, and this is explored in the new film. When we experience Hoffman’s first face-to-face encounter with the killer, we are given Jigsaw’s moral code. It’s not perfect, but one can argue that he at least puts an end to repeat offenders.
During this Jigsaw history lesson, we also follow a new group of victims, trapped in Jigsaw’s lair. These five strangers are given a series of challenges to face, and they must work together – and work against each other – to survive. Not all of their stories are fully revealed, even at the end, and this leads me to believe that this will be a critical part of the sure-to-be-made “Saw VI.”
Like “High School Musical 3,” which is opening against this film, “Saw V” is made for the fans. It is going to be trashed by a lot of people, most of whom haven’t even seen a “Saw” film and even more that will refuse to see this one. However, this is not the film to watch first. There’s a lot of character references and a reliance on pretext of the other films for this to make sense. In fact, even if you have seen the first four movies, it’s worth a look at them again to refresh your memory.
However, even with the film pandering to its audience to a degree, it still gives us something new. Like the previous films, there are plenty of flashbacks to its history on screen. In fact, we see some parts of the other films from behind the scenes, and we get as much characterization of Jigsaw as we did in part IV.
And don’t worry, gorehounds. There’s plenty of blood and guts in this movie to make it a traditional “Saw” film. It’s definitely not for the squeamish, but definitely worth a look for fans of the films and the genre itself.