Saw 2

Reviewed By Doug Bentin
Posted 11/10/05 07:42:22

"Understatement department: “Oh yes, there will be blood.”"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

What are the chances that a movie with the word “saw” in the title wouldn’t be bloody? And did you see the original poster? Two severed fingers were used to indicate the “part two” of the title. Of course, the MPAA sang “The No No Song” and the art had to be changed. But you knew, didn’t you?

Now, I don’t believe that a horror movie has to be drenched in grue to be effective, but in a time of anemic “PG-13” rated boosies, at least the gore lets you know that the filmmaker is trying to get into your blood stream and not just under your skin.

The Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), as he has been dubbed by cops and the press, has returned from his initial outing to kidnap and entrap a group of ne’er-do-wells in an abandoned house. A deadly gas is being released slowly into the air, but vials with the antidote are secreted around the house. If the victims can figure out Jigsaw’s always elliptical clues, there are enough vials for everyone.

Of course since these people were not selected because they have all been beatified, passions of the uglier variety break out and the ones who don’t run afoul of Jigsaw’s deathtraps run afoul of each other. Only Daniel (Erik Knudsen), the teenage son of the cop who is trying to break the case, and Samantha (Shawnee Smith), who survived a game in the first film, form a kind of we-gotta-help-each-other-to-get-outta-this bond.

Meanwhile, Daniel’s estranged dad (Donnie Wahlberg) finds Jigsaw’s hiding place but can’t get him to tell where the victims are being held.

It’s a double race against the clock, the kidnapees to find the antidotes and the cop to find his son.

There isn’t much to admire in any of the characters, and that’s as generous a statement as I’ve ever made. The victims run the gamut from pathetic to loathsome, and the cops are head-busters. Jigsaw at least wants his captives to learn to appreciate every moment of life, but he’s still crazier than a pigmy pole-vaulter.

One bit is as difficult to watch as anything I’ve ever seen on screen. Franky G plays Xavier, a muscled-up drug dealer whose self-inflated ego makes Madonna look like Saint Bernadette. He figures out that one of the syringes of good stuff is hidden, Purloined Letter style, in a pit full of needles and syringes. The only way to find out what’s behind Door Number One is to jump in and thrash about. He even makes a joke about looking for a hay in a needle stack.

So what does he do? In a move reminiscent of an old joke the punch line of which is “The Texan shouted ‘Remember the Alamo!’ and threw out the Mexican,” Xavier picks up one of the other characters and tosses her into the pit.

It’s a bit that works on at least three levels at once. It shows us what an asshole the guy is. It shows us the depths to which frightened people will descend when they are really desperate.

But most significantly, in this situation, it shows us that these filmmakers are not going to pull any punches in their desire to screw with out heads. I recently watched “The Exorcist” with an audience for the first time in 30 years and was pleasantly surprised when the masturbation scene elicited gasps of shock from people who had never seen the picture before. The girl tossed into the needle pit got pretty much the same reaction.

Or maybe viewers were shocked by the depravity of Xavier’s me-firstism. There aren’t a lot of people who won’t be unsettled by the miserable lot of low-life creeps who make up the movie’s cast of characters. These folks are not community chest volunteers, and the film is grim.

But you know what? I don’t care. Who says that all movies should be uplifting? Some of them can be just as cynical and black-humored as they want to be. Love doesn’t inevitably conquer all and there’s no reason to keep that a secret. Besides, art doesn’t have to always be moral or positive. Having a social conscience is great for real life. I’m all in favor of it, especially for everyone else.

New director Darren Lynn Bousman just provides an extension on the first film, using the same drab color scheme, grungy locations, and over-the-top, Grand Guignol performance style. Original writer Leigh Wannell is back, this time working with the director to produce a script with some not so surprising surprises and a few nifties. I like thriller scripts that lead me to believe I’ve got it all figured out only to blindside me later.

And did I mention that there will be blood? Whew. Oh yes.

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