In case you care, spoilage.

Lions Gate
MSRP: $19.99
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
•  Commentary with Director David Hackl and First A.D. Steve Webb
•  Commentary with Producers Owen Koules, Mark Burg and Exec Producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine
•  The Pendulum Trap
•  The Cube Trap
•  The Coffin Trap
•  The Fatal Five
•  Slicing the Cube: Editing the Cube Trap
•  Trailers

The Pitch

You won’t believe how it ends…or how it begins…the first act, second act…third act…climax…credits….

The Humans

Tobin Bell,
Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Julie Benz, Meagan Good, Betsy Russell, Mark Rolston, Carlo Rota, Greg Bryk, Laura Gordon, Joris Jarsky, Mike Butters, Mike Realba.

Pretty much the only way the producers will get the audience to watch VI

The Nutshell

Jigsaw (Bell) and his apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith) are both dead, but Jigsaw’s other silent partner, Detective Mark Hoffman, is carrying on his work.  This includes a new game with five strangers who share something in common and who have to work together in order to survive.  Meanwhile, FBI Agent Peter Strahm (Patterson), who barely survived his encounters with the new round of killings, is on to Hoffman and investigates the past murders in order to get a handle on what makes him tick, and retconning the hell out of the franchise in the process.

The Lowdown

At this point in the game, there’s not much trying to convert anyone to the Saw franchise.  You either hate it or you have chosen to live with it.  And you probably made up your mind by the second movie at the latest.  I’d have to put myself in the camp of the latter, if at least on a brain check level.  There are things in this series in which to not hate upon, but it’s clear that this franchise started showing the fact that it’s scraping the bedrock beneath the barrel.  Saw is torture porn to be sure, but it’s generally on the higher scale of torture porn.  Still, one can only take so much porn before getting raw.

Cube: Headcube was a disappointment to say the least.

Besides the inventive traps devised by Jigsaw, the carnage and the somewhat clever twists in the first movie or two, what made the Saw franchise unique was Jigsaw’s motivation for doing what he did.  He came up with labyrinthine plots involving his victims and he was meting out his version of justice in extra bloody fashion.  The fact that he was also on a timetable because of his terminal cancer was also a different element.  How many serial killers in movies throughout the years have been both so diabolical yet so vulnerable at the same time?  Plus Tobin Bell brought an added layer of depth in his portrayal.  He doesn’t kill anybody, he just sets up circumstances to where if they don’t change their evil or sordid ways, they’re going to end up as something akin to a human Rorschach test.

“I want to play a game.”
“OK, but look, this time you’re the gimp.”

The fact that Jigsaw added a twist in the second film by recruiting one of his former victims, Amanda, was also another interesting layer to the film.  Something similar would have been if Jason came up to the ambulance driver and asked him if he could hold down the shop while he was feeding the worms for a spell.  However, the good elements of the series went the way of Jigsaw at the end of III when he got a radial saw tracheotomy.  The last two movies have generally been retcon and catch-up fests as Jigsaw’s works have continued without him.  Now I did give props to IV for manipulating the timeline and actually occurring alongside III, which is something I’d generally never seen before.  The fact can’t be ignored that the Saw films have paid rigid attention to the continuity of their own franchise and manipulation of time in fairly interesting ways, most notably with II and IV.  And on the most basic level, the kills have been pretty inventive.

However, by the time V has rolled around, almost everything good about the series is gone, not the least of whom is Jigsaw himself.  All we’re left with now is a wannabe killer in Hoffman who’s barely a fraction as interesting as the man himself.  I’d have much rather had Amanda continue on, because there was much more meat to her character than Hoffman, played very dispassionately by Costas Mandylor.  Amanda was damaged goods, and although she may not have been on Jigsaw’s level, she was still much more interesting than Hoffman. 

Typical reaction to this

What we’re left with in V is barely half a movie.  The other half being spent on showing us all the behind-the-scenes stuff that we missed in the first four films.  As for the B-story involving the five poor bastards caught in the latest game, before you can get a handle on any of them, they’re dispatched and you really couldn’t care less.  Their inclusion is almost an afterthought, and hardly relevant to anything else going on in the movie.  The best thing I enjoyed about any of their misadventures was Julie Benz (and her rather ample bosom).  There could have been something there with her character, and if she had been given more to do rather than being an ensemble player in a production that we have little to no interest in, that could have definitely been a better way to go. 

As for Agent Strahm going on a tour of Jigsaw’s greatest kills, it’s an exercise in time wasting.  It’s clear early on that he has a handle that the new apprentice is Hoffman, yet he still wastes the entire picture gathering clues in his mind’s eye as to how Hoffman and Jigsaw hooked up.  Hoffman indulges him, but his mission isn’t Jigsaw’s mission, because Jigsaw didn’t care about being caught, and if he did, he was smart enough to get out of it.  Hoffman is doing little more than covering his ass with elaborate traps, and that instantly makes him far less interesting.  Still, Strahm’s own dispatching is pretty catchy, if reminiscent of an old Adam West Batman cliffhanger.  One thing does bug me though.  Jigsaw was an engineering genius in the creation of his traps, yet Hoffman seems to breeze in and have all of the same knowledge in being able to craft much of the same level of complexity into his own traps  And if they were Jigsaw’s final devices, then that’s just another black mark against Hoffman as nothing more than a wannabe using leftovers.

Luckily, Gregg Hoffman still came in handy…

Saw V is a by-the-numbers exercise in desperation that the series is indeed winding down, lacking much of the flavor that made the first couple of movies guilty pleasures.  The crumbs (which is probably all that’ll be left by the next installment) are laid here for Saw VI, which is coming off the assembly line in October.  Going out on a limb here: Jigsaw’s ex-wife is given a box of materials that he wants her to use.  I’m thinking it’s the final plot by Jigsaw to play a game with Hoffman in VI, to test him to see if he’s truly worthy to continue with Jigsaw’s legacy, or condemn him if he’s not, just like he did with Amanda.  We’ll see how close to the mark I am.

New director David Hackl, the production designer on most of the series, doesn’t really bring anything new, and in fact is unable to produce even one moment of the dread or tension that any of the previous films had.  He has mostly a music video sensibility to the endeavor and it’s nothing that hasn’t been played out before, especially in this series itself. 

Anyone else enjoying Hannity’s new show? 

The Package

This is supposed to be the unrated director’s cut.  that’s an outright lie.  I couldn’t spot a single scene that wasn’t in the theatrical version.  If there were any, they’re practically unnoticeable. 
The film maintains the usual look and tone of the series, and sound is also fine.  They did at least try with the special features, having two commentaries, one by Hackl and first assistant director (really, the first AD?), and the producers and exec producers.  There are five features on the various traps and players that are EPK-worthy and hardly original in their production or execution.  Pick this one up in the bargain bin a few months from now and you might (might) not hate yourself.

6.0 out of 10

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