By Al Kratina
Dec 14, 2006 - 12:43
Let's get this out in the open right now. Thanks to bootlegged Faces of Death films, I have videotapes of drowned Asian men being fished out of reservoirs. Don't ask me how or why, but the point I'm trying to make is that I'm not a squeamish person. Nor, apparently, am I a particularly moral one. Still, I find the Saw films distasteful. And it's not because they're particularly gory or violent, or that they're mean spirited. They are, but I have no problem with that. It's that this mean spiritedness is given this veneer, this mask, of Biblical morality that's all the more sickening because there's not a hint of irony present. Like all slasher films, the Saw movies turn their villain into the hero, but instead of being open and honest about it, reveling in Freddie Krueger's one- liners, or Michael Myers' stoic inexorability, the film is disingenuous. Jigsaw, Saw’s anti-hero, is driven by the same moral outrage that drove the killer in Se7en, but without the complexity that film layered on the motivation. Jigsaw kills people because they sin, essentially, and this morally problematic stance is given about the same amount of attention the key grip gets in the credits. It's merely an excuse to torture people while hiding behind a facade of puritanism. It’s not that I find the morality of the film objectionable, I just find it absent, and what's there is confused and muddled. In the last film, Jigsaw punished a cop who planted evidence to send criminals to jail. But strangely, he also attacked the criminals that were framed, because they were guilty of the crimes they were framed for. This reasoning goes around in circles so fast it makes my head hurt, and coupled with the nausea the film's green and brown color scheme induces, these movies feel like the stomach flu.
Saw 3 , as per the law of diminishing returns, is the worst of the series thus far. Where the first film was at least inventive in its brutality, and Saw 2 struggled not to degenerate into random neural firings of nonsense, both films had moments of pure, abject repulsion amid the stupidity, like high school drop-outs puking worms. Saw 3, however, has no redeeming qualities. The same confused moral tone exists, amplified somewhat by an additional layer of idiotic plot twists, but everything else is more subdued. And without distractions like gore and cruelty, there's nothing to draw your attention away from the fact that nothing makes any sense. The film quickly dispenses with any of the characters still surviving from the last film, then moves on to the usual parade of elaborate torture devices. Jigsaw, who has been dying since the first film, here prolongs his agony (and ours), by running another set of victims through another series of improbably tests. As he gets older and the filmmakers get lazier, the crimes against life his victims commit are getting more and more trivial, like jaywalking and wearing two different kinds of thread. Jigsaw has taken an apprentice in this film, one of the victims from the original, which is for some reason intended to be a surprise, despite the fact that this was established in Saw 2. She helps Jigsaw kidnap a doctor to save him, helping fill the spaces between various reasonably grisly deaths, and all building up to a shocking twist ending that's only unpredictable because everyone stops caring 20 minutes into the picture.
For all my distaste for the series, director Darren Lynn Bousman, who made the last two films, managed to inject a certain tension in the last film. Not so here, where everything goes slack and lazy after about 20 minutes, and not even the promise of someone getting drowned in rotting pig offal is enough to sustain interest. The performances are essentially treading water, wasting time until the next set-piece arrives to distract from a terribly trite script, but that distraction never really arrives. Much lazier than the previous movies, Saw 3 relies too much on the laurels of its predecessors, and these laurels are as decayed and diseased as the film's sickly green set design, and the moral universe the film inhabits.
Rating: 5 /10