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RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
– Producers’ Audio Commentary
– Writers’ Audio Commentary
– Deleted and Extended Scenes
– Music Videos
– Theatrical Trailer
Well, it ain’t the worst Saw ever…but it is the last.
Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Sean Patrick Flanery, and Cary Elwes, Gina Holden, Chad Donella, Tobin Bell.
After Jigsaw’s ex-wife, Jill Tuck (Russell), attempted to fulfill Jigsaw’s final wishes to deal with his errant apprentice, Det. Mark Hoffman, Hoffman is looking to hunt her down and get his revenge. He’s also continuing to fulfill Jigsaw’s legacy by placing unsuspecting saps in his lethal traps that are, at this point, pretty much guaranteed to be one way tickets to the morgue in bloody body bags. Seeking asylum, Jill goes to IA detective, Matt Gibson, ready to spill the beans totally on Hoffman in the hopes that he’ll be stopped before he gets to her. Meanwhile, Jigsaw survivor-turned-self-help-guru, Bobby Dagen (Flanery), is out promoting his book, that is, until he finds himself in Jigsaw’s final game. Like in recent films, he must navigate a series of deadly challenges designed to teach him a lesson – in this case, not to lie about being a survivor of one of Jigsaw’s traps. And Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Elwes), who hasn’t been seen since the end of the first film, makes an appearance with a startling revelation.
I covered this final (so they say) installment back in October (here). My thoughts on the film haven’t improved some four months later. In fact, overall I’m just very done on the Saw franchise, one to which I’ve probably given better nods than the majority of people who have reviewed the films over the years. Despite director Kevin Greutert’s work on VI, which momentarily lifted the franchise from its downward trend, Saw became akin to Friday The 13th if Roy took over for the last six installments instead of the genuine article. Bottom line, Tobin Bell was sorely missed in these last four films, despite the fact that he put in appearances in all of them (although barely in this last one).
Kind of surprising really that the franchise lasted another four outings without him. There was a cogent message to Jigsaw’s methods: What are you willing to do and how far are you willing to go to preserve the life you’ve, to date, pissed away in one form or another? Are you willing to endure some real pain? You willing to expend buckets of blood? You willing to kill some other poor asshole? Or are you willing to forgive him when he’s wronged you severely (a key question in III). Amanda (Shawnee Smith) proved she was willing to do what it took to survive in I; but she wasn’t willing to accept Jigsaw’s mantle as he intended it to be passed and she died because of it.
So then we have Mark Hoffman (Mandylor) who’s in the same boat. Except the main difference between him and Amanda is that there was a palpable connection – almost father to daughter – between Amanda and Jigsaw. Hoffman never gave any indication that he had any affection for Jigsaw whatsoever. Hoffman is merely Jigsaw’s pinch hitter when he goes down with an injury (okay, pretty significant injury, as death often is). He also didn’t give a damn about continuing Jigsaw’s mission as Jigsaw intended it to be perpetuated. It simply fed into his emerging need to be a psychopath.
As it turned out, Hoffman dug killing people, and now he had some damn interesting ways to do it. His arc in this regard paralleled Amanda’s, but he got away with perverting Jigsaw’s mission for much longer than she did. Yet he also spent half the time covering his ass, first from Agent Peter Strahm in V, then the rest of the FBI in VI and finally his own police department in Final Chapter. So at it’s heart, what we have with Saws IV through Final Chapter is a four-film rehash of Amanda’s storyline with Hoffman, but without any of the emotional connection between the protagonists and a shitload more victims.
Ultimately, that’s the real failing of three of these final four films. Aside from VI, after III, this franchise stopped being Saw and became The Adventures of Mark Hoffman, Psychopath Serial Killer, and there’s just no visceral resonance with that. Oh, there’s plenty of viscera to be sure, but the key message of the franchise is gone – again, aside from VI – and from there it just becomes all about how demented the traps got. So by that standard, there were a couple of decent traps in Final Chapter, and a slight bit of cleverness employed by Hoffman to get to his intended victim. But the main trap, which pits author Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), who lied about being a Jigsaw survivor and got rich off of it, against a series of deadly traps concerning his inner circle, is filler. In fact, it’s a distraction so Hoffman can do his thing to Jill Tuck. So was a rather nifty four-way trap involving some skinheads and an El Camino. The rest is just Hoffman gutting a bunch of cops to get to his real target. So if what should be the A-story is really the B- and C-stories and the B-story is the A-story, what chance did the film really have?
Mandylor mono-scowls his way through his fourth outing as the lead, and Chad Donella gets to, if not actually chew some scenery, at least gnaw on it a bit as Det. Gibson. But his character becomes even more insignificant than others in the franchise and there’s not even any direct resolution between him and Hoffman. Russell is a frightened rabbit throughout the entire film, so what fun is that really? There’s zero impact in what she got because any interest there was to her character was bled out about two films back. Flanery is rarely bad, and he gives far more heft to the role than a distraction deserves. Everyone else are just red shirts waiting for their dispatchings. Sound design on the film was pretty good, though. A character pulling his own teeth and another pulling his own skin off a glued seat were nicely squirm-worthy.
Finally, it’s no secret that Cary Elwes returns to the franchise as Dr. Lawrence Gordon. There were three ways that the succeeding films after III could have gone: with Amanda, Dr. Gordon, or Hoffman. It’s clear that the producers chose unwisely. Oh, and the 3D in the theatre? Lame, and added nothing except a couple of bucks to the ticket price.
Sound and picture are fine, consistent with other films in the series. This was the single-disc version (there’s a two-discer also out there. There are six expanded or deleted scenes, only one of which is really relevant. There are some music videos and commentary from the producers and another from the writers.
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars