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Saw IV Buzzes With Surprises

November 3, 2008

SAW IV (2007)
d. Darren Lynn Bousman 

While I haven’t been a fan of the Saw series, I was fairly surprised that I actually liked this sequel more than I expected.

New Sequel, Same Torture

New Sequel, Same Torture, Some Twists

The film still looks and feels like a Nine Inch Nails video, but the plot, which draws together some loose ends from the previous three, manages to entertain with its twists and convolutions. In fact, most of the thrills I got from watching this movie was less about the Rube Goldberg traps and devices than the pleasure gained from connecting the dots between the entire series and seeing Donnie Wahlberg again (albeit briefly) as well as other characters from previous installments; it feels like a greatest hits or best of episode.

The film tells the story of the continuing efforts of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) to educate those who deserve it despite him having died in Saw III. The focus of his current attempt is Rigg, a police officer who feels compelled to save those who have fallen victim to Jigsaw. Extending his influence from beyond the grave, Jigsaw manipulates Rigg on a journey that has him encountering more victims ensnared in the complicated traps in an effort to enlighten Rigg toward saving two of his partners (Wahlberg and Costas Mandylor).

While Rigg undergoes his own personal journey from hell, two feds attempt to intercept Rigg while trying to determine a third Jigsaw accomplice (the second being Amanda from Saw II-III) by interrogating Jigsaw’s ex-wife. It is during these interrogations that we delve deeper into Jigsaw’s origins and raison d’etre.

The two stories intercut well, building the suspense to a crescendo that brings numerous surprises and the final twist/revelation one expects from this series. And the finale here drew less of an “oh, bullshit” response from me than the last two sequels; it actually jazzed me up a bit when I realized the time frame in which this takes place, as well as how Rigg’s education finally pans out. Let’s just say, not everyone makes it out alive. It makes me look forward with some interest to when Saw V comes out on DVD to see how they continue the story.

Perhaps the only element that felt a little weird was seeing Jigsaw before he became Jigsaw; while I understand it as a story element, it was just out of place to see Jigsaw smiling and healthy as I am so used to seeing him unhappy and sickly. A minor gripe, really.

Gore-hounds take note: this must be the goriest entry in the series. It certainly sets the bar high with a very explicit autopsy of Jigsaw before the opening credits. Possibly because this is an “Unrated” version of the film.

So while I still despise the editing style, with its machine-gun like rapidity, championing style over substance, this film still manages genuine suspense and thrills; it also rewards the audience member who is a continuity freak as it draws elements and characters from the previous films in this series.

**1/2 stars for entertaining me beyond my expectations.

So next up, Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm, starring Heath Ledger and Matt Damon.

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