In what was originally slated to be the final chapter, the latest installment keeps the traps interesting but leaves the back story running thin.
After offing Special Agent Strahm in the last installment, Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has inherited Jigsaw’s legacy. When Hoffman begins to suspect he’s made mistakes that could bring the FBI to his door, he rushes to put Jigsaw’s final game into motion. Meanwhile, the contents of the mysterious box Jigsaw has left to his wife (Betsy Russell) is revealed, but what is the final task that her late husband has set out for her?
If you’ve kept up with the Saw series, you know that the original Jigsaw killer (played by Tobin Bell) is dead, and that was a few installments back. Each one features more and more flashbacks as to the events that shaped John’s obsession with “fixing people” (this one includes a particularly preachy bit about greedy insurance companies), but as a plot device holding everything together, it feels as if it’s being used more to plug previous plot holes than further the series. At this point, the formula of following one victim through trials of others until the montage-flashback ending is only interesting for the traps themselves.
It’s been suggested that perhaps Jigsaw himself was killed off too soon, but who knew the first one would blossom into five sequels (and two more announced on the way?) It has also been revealed what the inspirations for Jigsaw’s trademark memorabilia are (Billy on the tricycle, the pig mask) so there isn’t a whole lot left to say about the origins of Saw. If this franchise is going to continue, even on the cheap, it’s going to have to take a new and at least as interesting a direction to hold anyone’s attention.
The original Saw surprised on a shoestring while the franchise has suffered through growing pains, but now the formula has been refined to the point where it’s no longer surprising. The character of Detective Hoffman is crafty and resourceful but highly unlikable, the very opposite of John/Jigsaw who at least seems to have a noble purpose and doesn’t see himself as a villain at all. If this is all we have to look forward to in future sequels, it’s really time to put the Jigsaw puzzle away and play a different game.
(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)