October 24, 2008
Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan
Tobin Bell as Jigsaw/John
Costas Mandylor as Mark Hoffman
Scott Patterson as Agent Strahm
Betsy Russell as Jill
Julie Benz as Brit
Jigsaw is back, albeit from the grave. The latest installment of the Saw franchise continues the drama from the previous Saw offerings in an attempt to bring clarity to the how, what, when and why of unanswered questions and dangling story lines from previous episodes.
Agent Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has been chasing the “teacher” Jigsaw and investigating the “murders” since the first time that the deadly life lessons oozed to the surface in the original Saw (although we don’t actually meet him until Saw III). Not really murders, you see, but lessons in appreciating life dealt by Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) to those who have squandered the gifts they had available to them by lying, cheating, stealing, etc. What better way to show your repentance for killing someone than to thrust your hands into a vice that will crush your bones to bits. It appears, though, that Jigsaw does not often operate alone.
Through the previous Saw films it is clear that there are often unwitting participants in the “games” that teach life-lessons to the ne’er-do-wells, often embroiled in their own tests requiring them to, say, kidnap people, bash heads in and so on to prove that they value life. But beyond the additional players there are others – more involved actual accomplices to the Jigsaw crimes. Amanda is one of them, the young heroin addict who survived an early Jigsaw test and subsequently dedicated her life to teaching others a lesson. Is Agent Hoffman an accomplice as well? The ending of Saw IV seemed to imply so. In Saw V agent Strahm (Scott Patterson), who made his first appearance in Saw IV, wants to find out. Predictably, Strahm finds himself in the center of his own life-lesson test as he follows the clues to bust the Jigsaw accomplice question wide open.
Saw V marks the rise of director David Hackl from the ranks of “second unit” director to the big chair. The second unit director is typically in charge of the less important shots in a film including scenery, low-level set-up scenes and the filming of body doubles after the stars of the film go to their trailers to meet their adoring fans and drug dealers. Hackl’s experience as either production designer, second unit director or both in Saw II – IV, along with the writing team that brought Saw IV (Melton and Dunston), should presumably have resulted in a consistent franchise feel and satisfying continuation (conclusion?) of the film series. Should have… Unfortunately, in this instance, this is not the case. Between the unsympathetic victims, unimaginative tests, lack of characteristic production grit and unforgivably irrational decisions made by those being tested, Saw V regrettably represents “one Saw too many”. One does, after all, eventually reach an age where mini-skirts and belly-button rings are just silly… and this horror film is like the painful vision of Bea Arthur in a Britney Spears outfit. What happened to exiting gracefully?
The silver lining around this tragic Saw cloud is the rumored addition of a Saw VI “coming soon”. Why would one look forward to another installment of an over-played franchise? Because maybe, this time, the series can retire on a high note.