The ‘Saw’ Movies in Review: ‘Saw 2’
I was going to space these reviews out a bit, but perhaps a band-aid approach is the best bet. Grit your teeth, get through it and then have a very large drink. The first movie did not age particularly well but the core concept and tight script go a long way to preserving the entertainment value. Of course, if you have a unique concept the best thing to do is make it less unique! Also, spoilers.
Director: Darren Lyn Bousman
Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Donnie Wahlberg, Franky G, Glenn Plummer, Dina Meyer
Plot: Detective Matthews is hunting the Jigsaw in between dealing with a divorce and an unhappy teenage son. When he catches up with the maniacal trap maker Matthews’ discovers Jigsaw has imprisoned his son along with seven others in a gas filled house.
Review: You can see the studio doing the maths on this one. We had two guys in one room…let’s make it eight people in four rooms and it’ll be four times better! Let’s celebrate with cocaine! Although Whannel was once again involved in writing this outing it definitely feels like a poorly made copy. All the same visual tics and memorable imagery of the first film is there but without the thought process that led to it being created.
We get introduced to Matthews, played by Donnie ‘Poor Man’s’ Wahlberg as a wholly unlikeable cop. We never learn much about him or see much character develop, but there’s something unpleasant about him. He’s trying to get Jigsaw (Bell) to stop his game and release his son while we see things play out in the house. The eight people in the house are equally uninteresting as we never learn anything about them beyond vague stereotypes. Whilst saying there are now eight victims may read well on the press release in reality it means that none of them get any back story, motivation or even personality because they’re sharing the screen with a small crowd.
Without the elaborate set-ups and psychological mind games the various traps and games lack any suspense or investment. One gets shot in the face, one sticks her arms in some sharp glass…only the big oven has any suspense attached to it and it’s early in the piece. There’s a ticking clock element in that everyone is being poisoned with a nerve gas, but that just means the cast have to stagger around pretending to cough. Compared to the tightly controlled set-up in the first film this one is a mess. They find the biggest clue to their circumstances because one addled victim starts babbling about a broken picture frame. What made Jigsaw think they would ever find that? Was Amanda (Smith) going to pretend to find it if no-one mentioned it?
Oh yeah, there’s a big twist at the end when we learn Amanda, formally a victim of Jigsaw, is now his apprentice and working the inside track. Her experience with the reverse bear trap has turned her around to Jigsaw’s perspective, which is an interesting continuation from where we last saw her character. It’s also revealed that the events in the house had already taken place and Matthews was the real test subject after he falsified evidence against a number of his arrests.
The film-makers got lucky with Tobin Bell as the actor playing Jigsaw. He only appeared briefly in the first film, delivering a memorable closing speech, but now they were putting him front and centre. Fortunately he’s got a great deal of screen presence and doesn’t demystify the role by giving him a face. I am hoping they explain where he gets his resources from though, because he seems to have plenty of property and mechanical devices handy, and he manages to set all this stuff up for a guy on the verge of death. He must’ve hired the same crew who hid Riddler’s trophies in the ‘Arkham’ game series.
Ultimately the twists at the end of the film lend quite a bit of strength to the story and open it up to further exploration. The lack of interesting characters or traps wind up putting it in the category of cheap, rushed sequel. The most marketed moment of the film is the opening trap scene, which plays out almost identically to Amanda’s scene in the first film. Hopefully the rest of the franchise won’t feel so much like a quick cash grab.
Rating: THREE out of TEN
MOST HORRIFYING TRAP: This one wasn’t as easy to pick out because none are especially creative. In the end it has to go with the needle pit that Amanda gets thrown into. It’s such a skin-crawlingly unpleasant situation and Shawnee Smith sells the terror and pain disturbingly well. It’s such an intense sequence we had to look up how the effect of the needles was achieved, because it looks horrible.