Saturday, October 6, 2007

Absolute Bollocks: a review of Saw III

A friend lied to me recently, and it has really stung.

I was loading up my detachable harddrive with a heap of gear from his computer... all in a completely legal way, of course. When I ask for something to fill a gig and a half he thinks for a moment...

"Hey, you still haven't seen Saw III, eh?"

This was true. I had planned to see it in the cinema, having enjoyed the second one in the cinemas in spite of the fact it destroyed my subsequent NIDA audition (or at least was the prime factor not involving my shite performance). I hadn't really thought about seeing it since, being more occupied with episodes of Spaced and porn. Hence my response:

"Nah. Any good?"

"Yeah."

LIAR!

As I said, I found Saw and its sequel to be enjoyable enough. I'm not a fan of horror movies at all, but they won me over because they were both quite intelligent and had a good sense of drama, helped to a [small] degree by recognisable characters being well-served by the cast. However, having just finished watching Saw III I have to say I'm not planning on watching any more in the series, which looks set to last for about half-a-dozen films too many.

It doesn't get off to a good start - its a pretty simple rule that padding is for TV, not film. And yet the first 20 minutes of Saw III does nothing but introduce characters irrelevant to the rest of the film, who get killed off pretty much straight afterwards. If anyone thinks that there's a chance of intelligence in the film, the very first scene pretty much dashes that hope. Detective Matthews, the astonishingly unlikeable protagonist of the previous film, is locked in the disused bathroom of death, which Jigsaw is disturbingly fascinated with. The old hacksaws are still there, so there's the familiar challenge - he can get out, but all he has to do is saw his own foot off.

Oh, wait - the slab from the cistern is right there. I guess he can just use that to break the chains and -HOLY FUCK! For some reason, the bleeding obvious never occurs to Matthews, so instead he slams the slab until his foot snaps off at the bone. I hate watching retarded behaviour at the best of times, but when it is gory as well it just makes it worse.

What then? Oh, some dude is chained up, yada-yada, bombs blows up and kills him. That chick from the second film is at the crime scene, where Leigh Whannel forgets for a moment the film is meant to be set in America so a bad-ass black cop on the scene says "A bloody truck couldn't get through that door!" before sculling some VB and re-iterating his views on Shane Warne or "the Don Bradman of bowling" as he insists on calling him. The scene is also notable for containing a dialogue exchange I can only assume was meant to be massively post-modern, where the chick-from-the-second-film (Cftsf from now on - she'll be dead soon, trust me) notes that Jigsaw's murders really suck now compared to the old days.

As soon as you're suckered into thinking that Cftsf may play a decent role in the film for so much as a second, she's wired up with a reverse-beartrap plugged into her ribcage. Okay, people familiar with the franchise will be thinking, Jigsaw is only meant to torture those who have done wrong and/or wasted their life, right? So what great crime has Cftsf commited? According to the tape "Being more comfortable with a corpse than with a human." She is a forensics specialist, so basically her crime is being good at her job. This is an awful trend in the movies, where Whannel seems to have incredible trouble thinking of relevant crimes for the unfortunate victims to have performed - the chained up guy I mentioned in passing? "Erm, yeah you were in prison a lot. I fucking hate that for some reason. It could be down to sociological conditioning, really, but basically you're going to die now"

So, anyway, Cftsf needs to reach into a jar of acid to get the key to 'unlock' the ribcage device. Personally, and without any medical training, I have to say that it's pretty fucking obvious that you're not going to remove a device that's clamped onto your ribcage with just a key. But Cftsf falls for it despite being a highly trained medical professional. *Sigh* Another returning theme in this film is also a completely crap on - the character gets the key but IT WON'T FIT IN THE LOCK! Along with Jigsaw deliberately placing keys in incredible hard to reach places, this is dramatic device that really, really sucks.

After this, I was at the point of giving up on this movie. This does not happen to me very often. Four times, in memory: Once in a film where Judy Davis played a sex-addicted woman in New York. The second in The Royal Tenembaums, a side-splitting comedy where people stand around saying nothing for minutes on end, before mumbling non-sequitors and drowning in Wes Anderson's pretension. See Bill Murray as you've never seen him before - in a catatonic state! A third time in... fuck the film's too crap for me to even remember properly. The old guy from Just Shoot Me sleeping with a schizoid. The last film was Kingdom of Heaven. To anyone who's watched the film, that entry should speak for itself.

So anyway, just before I decide to destroy my copy of the film it gets vaguely interesting and sucked me into watching the rest...

And I will hate it for that forever more.

The set-up is fairly interesting... Johnny "Jigsaw" Kramer, everyone's favourite serial psychopath who arranges all those wacky ways to kill people, is dying from his cancer. This was something of a relief to me, as I figured he should have been dead after the second film, where he starts off wheelchair-bound, and THEN Detective Matthews decides to kick twelve and a half types of shit out of him. The online community was united in its assertion that Mr Kramer was indeed alive, though. This was based on the fact that, before the end credits, we saw him smile. Your honour, the defense rests! Strangely enough I've never heard the same logic in reference to the end of B7..

So, anyway, John's brain is about to blow-up, so Lynn, a Doctor, is kidnapped and brought to him. She's decked out in a collar that will detonate her head if John's vital signs dip down too low, and only Amanda, the apprentice Jigsaw better known as "Reverse-Beartrap Girl" and "Pit of Syringes Girl" and on some occassions "Junkie Lesbian From Hell", can remove the collar. This wouldn't be quite a problem if she wasn't uncontrollably paranoid and psychotic.

Lynn will be free to go if, and only if, Jeff makes it through his tests. Jeff is a self-made hobo who's become obsessed with avenging his son's death. His tests, unlike the norm, are about letting people live.

The flaws become obvious, though - the scenes with Lynn, Amanda and John could be the best in the series... if Leigh Whannel could fucking write some character development that doesn't involve frenzied screaming at one another. One of Amanda's first scenes involves her nearly throwing a gigantic medical textbook at Lynn while screaming "Why don't you tell me something I don't know, you fucking cunt?" Just like in Blade: Trinity the achilles heel of Hollywood is shown to be the characterisation, which is really irritating when there's so much great characterisation on TV. Even though the one episode I have seen of Battlestar: Galactica was the worst television I'd ever wtinessed, I could at least admire the strength of the characters, and how few cues in the dialogue was needed to get them across. These scenes are so OTT to be operatic.

And the stuff with Jeff? Yeah, well, these films are increasingly about more and more gory ways to kill somebody, so basically he lets everyone die.

Sorry if that's a spoiler, but did you really think peoples' lives would be saved an a Saw film? Even for a MOMENT? Leaving aside gratuitous ways of killing people, if Jeff let people live that would give him people to talk to, and that just wouldn't work in a Whannel script.

Problem #6500 with this series: credibility. The mystery of just how Jigsaw does any of this intensifies. People who complain about the feasibility of V for Vendetta (where V basically had his whole life and superhuman powers to plan the November 5 bombings) really need to watch this. Jigsaw is able to find absolutely endless machinery, empty sewers and general deserted areas where no-one will find him. Somehow he's managed to make another base, which looks exactly the same as the one from the last film, in a mysterious locale underground. With a complete operating theatre. And lots of electricity. Not to mention all the devices he manages to make that have all been engineered flawlessly - this includes a machines that liquefies pig carcasses. I doubt any devices like this exist in the real world (due to pigs generally having meat inside, something of exceptional value in the modern world), but even that scepticism is tiny next to the idea of Jigsaw somehow securing, oh, a couple of dozen pig carcasses to put through it.

Even if, somehow, you believe there is any shred of a chance that any of this shit is possible in the real world, consider the fact that Jigsaw has been invalid for months. Every single trap, ploy, and device has been concieved, designed, and built with the exact victim in mind during the events of the first film. And that includes the upcoming sequel! If that isn't enough to make you call 'bullshit' why not just fly back to your home planet, pal?

I have to give the film this: in spite of the feeling that there's nothing new under the sun in this film, that all it is successfully doing is making a warped, bloated and thoroughly brain-dead caricature of the first two films in the series, the ending is not predictable.

Because it is so very, very stupid.

Yes, I didn't see it coming, when there were endless flash-backs explaining that every single thing people complained about making no sense in the first two films was somehow down to Amanda. I didn't see it coming that Lynn wasn't being tested at all, that the test was simply to see whether complete psycho Amanda could stop herself from killing another human being she was forced to talk to for more than five minutes. And I didn't see it coming that Jeff and Lynne were husband and wife, and that Lynn didn't sneak a peak at any of those security cameras around and subsequently recognise him.

These revlations are mildly interesting - until you take up 15 minutes of time with flashbacks to basically every bit of dialogue in the film faintly connected to them. I guess it saves time and constitution for obsessive people who would feel the need to watch this bilge a second time to pick up on it all, but I miss the days when things weren't endlessly recapped for the ADHD generation. I mean, in the last two films the twists were far more unexpected and had waaay fewer recursive references. And then there's The Usual Suspects, probably the greatest twist in cinema history, and I don't think they felt the need to show a single second of film that had been used prior to the finale.

Saw III stays astonishingly true to its adolescent mis-en-scene in a closing coup-de-grace of retardedness, right before the most jaw-droppingly ham-fisted setup for a sequel since... erm, no, make that the worst ever.

The interesting thing to note is that pretty much everyone in the film dies, and in the process either

a) Had no lesson to learn

or

b) Did have a lesson to learn, but was a complete dick about it and thus didn't change at all.

This means that Jigsaw's life work has been completely meaningless and fruitless. I'm trying to work out if this is meant to be the ultimate piece of nihilistic theatre, or just an excuse to mutilate body parts in movies. I suspect the latter...


Addendum: Best unintentionally hilarious piece of dialogue: Jigsaw, barely alive on his operating table and unable to move.

"I can an ambulance here in four minutes"

Wow. To add to everything else, Jigsaw clearly has the power of telepathy. And New York emergency services have just opened up their services to unknown and mysterious underground lairs! Great news for all of us!

1 comment:

Youth of Australia said...

I've never actually seen one of the Saw movies, but unwittingly referenced the big idea twice - in that in Apocalypse/Attack of the Cybermen, people muse about that old Greek bloke who had to cut off his own foot to get loose.

An entertaining review, but reminds me back in 2000, of me and Damo coming up with a YOA plot where the gang end up trapped in a Jigsaw-esque room with no doors, manacled to the wall.

But that was more a Bottom esque episode set in real time with them all talking to each other for the whole episode, and hacking off limbs was just a joke.

Oh well...