Directed by: Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig
Premise: The eighth film in the Saw series. Ten years after the death of Jigsaw killer John Kramer, police detectives investigate a new series of murders while a group of victims attempt to survive a sadomasochistic game.
What Works: Jigsaw is a competently made film. The movie is slickly shot and features some convincing production values. The story makes oblique references to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with a couple of characters who are veterans of those conflicts. While it doesn’t do much with that, the fact that Jigsaw makes reference to the wars is notable given their absence in most Hollywood films. The cast includes actress Hannah Emily Anderson in a supporting role as a medical examiner who is fascinated by the killer’s legacy. Anderson is a promising actress and she is often the most compelling presence in the movie.
What Doesn’t: Jigsaw is a soft reboot that attempts to reignite a dormant franchise. Its intentions are solely commercial. This film exists as an industrial product capitalizing on a brand name and little else. The filmmakers show no interest in actually continuing the story or catering to the fans. The result is a film that isn’t made for anyone. Over the course of seven movies, the Saw series developed an intricate web of relationships and themes. Jigsaw killer John Kramer was the architect of a twisted ideology and the second half of the series was about exposing the web of corruption that made the elaborate games possible and how Jigsaw’s belief system was taking on a life of its own. The new film does away with all of that. It carries over almost none of the themes or style of the earlier films. The other Saw movies combined a gritty and organic visual texture with dramatic use of light and color and highly stylized editing techniques. The new film is flat and lacks energy. Jigsaw simply doesn’t feel like a Saw movie. Part of that may be the changes behind the camera. Jigsaw was made by a new set of filmmakers. (Bizarrely, the movie was co-written by the screenwriter of the Dane Cook comedy Good Luck Chuck.) It does not seem as though the new filmmakers understood or even had any interest in the existing Saw series. The best entries in this franchise had intricate plotting and in later installments the series became a sort of grotesque soap opera. The Saw films also successfully mixed character with plot, often putting people through excruciating physical challenges that were relevant to their human flaws. And of course the marque attraction of the Saw series was the gore and the intricate traps. Jigsaw has none of that. The characters of this movie are bland and absent of any motivation. They don’t have any of the baggage found in the characters of the earlier films and their flaws don’t drive the story. The previous Saw movies fit together like puzzle pieces with overlapping action and interconnected plotlines. In some cases the earlier Saw movies overextended themselves into absurdity but the new film is just stupid with a lot of illogical and unnecessarily convoluted twists. Perhaps most misjudged is the new movie’s lack of gore. Jigsaw attempts to class up the franchise by making it less like a splatter film and more like an episode of CSI. But the very thing that made Saw interesting was its combination of physical violence and psychological terror. This movie attempts to replace all that with a dumb detective story that is littered with plot holes. The uninspired traps, lazy storytelling, flat filmmaking style, an utter lack of showmanship, and a disregard for the canon makes this a failure of a reboot.
Bottom Line: A good reboot pays homage to the earlier films while steering the franchise in a new direction. Jigsaw alienates everything good or distinctive about this franchise while not putting any kind of new stamp on the material.
Episode: #673 (November 5, 2017)