If you truly believe this is the final Saw, you’re going to be disappointed. If you were hoping to see the coolest traps in the series, you’ll be less disappointed. If you thought 3D was going to make a difference anywhere but in the opening credits, you deserved that two-dollar up-charge.
After failing to kill Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) in the last installment, Jill (Betsy Russell), widow to “Jigsaw” John (Tobin Bell), turns evidence to police internal affairs in return for immunity for her knowledge of John’s continuing work. Meanwhile, “self-help guru and fellow survivor” Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) has gained fame and wealth from his Jigsaw experience, but a familiar face in the support group crowd may be an ill omen: Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes), one of Jigsaw’s first survivors.
After steadily releasing a new film every October, this one teases to pull out all the stops: “the final chapter,” filmed in 3D, and the fate of Jigsaw’s postmortem minions. What we get instead is a main plot trap sequence unhitched from any previous tie-ins, two trap sequences that have little or nothing to do with the rest of the film (plus one that never actually happens at all), and stupid people (who should really know better by now) dying pointlessly (in 3D.) The “final chapter” elements account for a fifth of the running time and is in no way satisfying or even surprising. Aside from the clever engineering of the traps (and perhaps one two-timing trollop that had it coming), the story is formulaic at best.
The rest of this review may include minor spoilers to cite specific issues, so if you wish to see this film unspoiled first, stop reading here.
After the amazingly original first film, the filmmakers knew they had to escalate the story, traps, and deaths, which meant creating an excuse for more victims. This hurt Saw II because it was obvious how irrelevant moving victims through a trap house was. By Saw IV, filmmakers had worked out what procedural television already knows, having a main plot (trap house with victims preloaded), a secondary plot (involving the mythology), and then all the character bits. But while the traps and purposes come up original, the victims all seem more foolish and getting dumber by the sequel. Saw 3D‘s Bobby (Flanery) should have been smarter by far considering his past, but like everyone he meets along his trap quest, it’s hard to envision them as anything other than screaming mannequins.
For a moment during this film’s third act, there was a glimmer of hope before the flame flickered out as a squad of armed police busted into a Jigsaw trap sequence and started moving room to room while the game was still in play. Wouldn’t it be something to see a real “Saw-Buster” crew in action? The leader guy in the trench coat who knows the routine, four ex-Navy SEALS armed to the teeth, and support provided by four engineers in electrical, plumbing, structural design and trap building. With door spikes, cutting torches, bypass wires, tower shields, gas masks, and just whatever might be necessary to get in, rescue the victims, and get out in one piece, wouldn’t you pay to see that at least once? Don’t worry, though. The one thing here that’s certain is that another Saw can’t be more than a year away.
(a one and a half skull recommendation out of four)