Monday, October 27, 2014

SAW Retrospective: Saw V (2008)

Saw V
Director: David Hackl
Starring:  Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Tobin Bell, Betsy Russell, Carlo Rota, Julie Benz, Meagan Good
Rated:  R

They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery...

We get some promotions to start this one off in front of and behind the camera.  Scott Patterson's "Agent Strahm" is now the lead here in Saw V.  Leading the production is David Hackl, who had previously been the production designer on the Saw II, III and IV.  As I said, they like to keep things in the family with this series.  So, when you watch this film and Mark Rolston shows up as a new side character, Strahm's boss, you just know he's probably going to be upgraded to lead protagonist here in either the next installment or the one after.
We finally get to move on from the storylines that took place during the same time, moving us to after the events of Saw III.  However, this film just seems to be the bridging or backstory filling chapter to explain the crazy ass twist of the previous film.  Detective Hoffman being a disciple of Jigsaw probably had some people calling "bullshit" or being completely confused, and this movie seems to have the sole purpose of trying to explain and vindicate that decision.  And to be honest, his dark cornerstone that had him turn seems perfectly logical and maybe even moreso than Amanda or Jigsaw even.
Most of this film is a cat and mouse type game between Hoffman and Strahm.  Strahm pretty much becoming Danny Glover from the first film, throat injury scratchy voice and all.  Except, he's played by Scott Patterson who is pretty terrible in the film.  Its a new dynamic to the series where our villain has been had and is trying to cover up his tracks.  We get more with Mrs. Jigsaw, but a lot of the story points she has aren't resolved and are left in the air for later journeys.  Just like how we still don't know what it said in Amanda's note yet. 
Oh yeah, we also have this secondary storyline of a group of people related to each other in some sort of real estate scandal thing who must work their way out of a room.  Its very much Saw II, but with more tolerable and self aware people.  Okay, so the druggy guy sucks, but he's WAYYY better than Xavier.  In this group we get two familiar actors in Carlo Rota and Julie Benz.  Rota just has the gift of a terrific voice where you'll listen and to him and be engaged in whatever character he's playing beause of it.  Benz, I swear was on some sort of old school Hollywood Lionsgate contract as during this time she appeared in this, Rambo and The Punisher: War Zone.  These folks are challenged to work together to escape, yet you know you're watching a Saw movie and that's not going to happen.  But, they're all aware of Jigsaw, so word has gotten out around town.  And for the first ime in a while, this group of people set with traps is sort of patient and allows them to sort of figure out and TRY to escape these traps.
Except, here's the catch with that group.  It has NOTHING to do with anything going on in the rest of the movie.  Yes, there's a cool decapatation, and the final challenge for them is gruelling and of the toughest things in the series to watch.  But, what's it all for?  These people don't connect to anything going on in the main plot at all.  As a matter of fact, every time the movie cuts from the Hoffman-Strahm chase, you're like "Oh yeah, I forgot about these people".  The only reason these people are here, has nothing to do with the story, its because the main plot is basically trap and bloody kill free.  Its a Saw movie, so you gotta have those two things, and this second plot has it just so every 10-15 minutes it can meet that quotient.  It just sort of adds to how wonkily put together the film is. 
One of the big reasons people love the Saw movies is their big reveals at the end of the movie.  Its one of the things the series really has to offer.  Its what makes people go back and sift through for clues they might have missed and where the writers try and tie things together and keep a tight continuity.  Saw V is completely void of that.  The only twist in the film is that Hoffman has been patiently framing Strahm for his murders.  And that the entire room but the glass box Strahm is offered to get into into is collapsing.  Yes, its very cool to watch the guy who just gave a bad performance get smashed by the walls closing in, but really that's it?  There's nothing left here.  This movie's ending doesn't leave anything open for "Oh, I can't wait to see what happens next year!". 
Saw V is another step right down after Saw IV.  And more of a flight than a step.  The previous film wasn't all too great on its own right, but at least it brought some intrigue and had a pretty awesome twist.  This film serves to be the explanation or bridge film into the Hoffman as Jigsaw era and really lends nothing but explanation.  In that regard, its pretty dull and boring.  We get some cool Jigsaw scenes in the flashbacks, and some nifty painful deaths that are better than anything in the fourth film, but its nowhere near enough to be entertaining.  We also have to follow Scott Patterson around for the duration.  For me, this is where I was pretty much ready to call it complete quits on the franchise.  I could deal with a string of films at IV's quality, but this one dropped it exponentially and just seemed like that was gonna be it.  You can't really know if the blame is on Hackl or franchise fatigue.  Or just that its just stretching things out to far at this point. 

NEXT TIME:  Jigsaw takes on Healthcare

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