By Jeffrey Waitkevich
Let’s play a game: it’s called watching a confusing reboot more than 10 years after the original’s release.
The original “Saw” came out in 2004. “Saw 3D,” the seventh installment in the played out franchise, which was dubbed “the final chapter,” debuted in 2010. Seven years later, the series returns with “Jigsaw.”
In many ways it picks up where the series left off.
In typical “Saw” fashion, the movie feels like a losing battle in figuring out what is going on.
It begins with Edgar Munsen (Josiah Black) being chased by police to the top floor of a building where he finds a remote. When the police catch him, he asks for Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and begins spewing on about “the game.”
The encounter ends with a bullet in Munsen and the remote activated.
That activation begins “the game,” with Anna (Laura Vandervoort), Ryan (Paul Braunstein), Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles), Carly (Brittany Allen) and an unnamed character rounding out the quintet of players.
As is typical of the series, the first victim is taken in the first few minutes when police find him hanging from a tree with skin missing in the shape of a puzzle piece.
As the trend continues, Detective Halloran and the rest realize that the suspect is likely none other than the supposedly deceased John Kramer, also known as “Jigsaw.”
The construction of the plot is no masterpiece. With so many characters and storylines, the first half of the movie feels like an episode of “NCIS” or “Criminal Minds,” if everyone turned on each other.
It doesn’t help that the acting is less than perfect. As apparent above, the cast lacks big name actors. While that’s the norm for the series, having a protagonist that is recognizable to root for would have gone a long way in improving the film.
Underlying, however, is a bigger issue: there is no clear protagonist. Instead, the film relies on a variety of characters working to solve the anti-jigsaw puzzle. In the end, each of them has skeletons in their closet that take away from their likability.
And that’s where this movie thrives: it sticks to its guns and doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.
Going into a “Saw” movie, audiences expect three things: “the game,” some wildly gory scenes not fit for the faint of heart, and Jigsaw’s spooky, deep voice.
This film completed the trifecta.
Additionally, the film being so difficult to keep up with eventually pays off by turning its complexity into its biggest strength.
The last few scenes of the movie are wild, they flip everything on its head and essentially jam the entire movie of “Inception” into a 15-minute exposé.
OK, so there’s no Hans Zimmer soundtrack and there are no upside down worlds, but it is every bit as complex and wonderful. It’s the kind of film that makes you question every prior scene in an attempt to figure out how in the world you got there.
It was a brain overload, but it was beautiful.
That said, this movie does not lend itself kindly to frequent bathroom breaks. Nearly every scene somehow connects to the next in a nonlinear race to the conclusion. Missing scenes makes it impossible to follow.
For first-time “Saw” movie goers, twin directors Michael and Peter Spierig do a great job filling in the gaps and making it feel like an experience separate from the other seven movies. Moreover, this film feels like it sets up a whole new series, so definitely be on the lookout for “Jigsaw 2.”
The Crow’s Nest rates movies between one and five stars, with five stars being the highest possible score.
Header photo courtesy of Lionsgate Films