Directed by: David Hackl
Premise: The fifth film in the Saw series. Immediately following the events of Saw IV, FBI Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) gets close to discovering that police Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is carrying on Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) legacy. At the same time, white-collar business people are caught in a bloody jigsaw game.
What Works: The game is the most interesting portion of this new Saw film. The change in the victim pool from drug junkies and neglectful parents to upper class citizens is a successful change for the series and the lessons they have to learn are quite interesting and timely. The games are about as inventive and as bloody as anything else in the series and ought to satisfy less discriminating gore fans.
What Doesn’t: The Saw films have suffered the further they have gone from the well, and in Saw V the series is showing serious wear and tear. The story of Saw V is modeled very much after the second film as it cuts between a group of people trapped in the game and the detective work. But the film dwells on the FBI agent’s attempt to expose Detective Hoffman and the cat and mouse routine is poorly handled. Agent Strahm makes big leaps in logic and detective work, coming to conclusions for no particular reason. As the film jumps around the timeline, showing Hoffman’s background as Jigsaw’s apprentice, it clutters the film and distracts from what ought to be the most pressing element of the film: the people in the trap. Instead, the story returns to them as an afterthought and in the end their rehabilitation through pain is meaningless in the scheme of the film and it is disconnected from the other plotlines. The genius of the original Saw was to include a twist ending that was not a cheat but a logical conclusion that the viewer realizes they should have seen but didn’t because of skilled misdirection by the filmmakers. The second and third films accomplished this to lesser degrees and the fourth installment made up for its absence with a surprisingly compassionate back-story to the Jigsaw character. But Saw V has no such moment and it makes the ending even more of a drag on the film. Lastly, the series’ transition from Jigsaw and Amanda as the villain to Detective Hoffman has been very disappointing. Hoffman just does not have the kind of charm or provocative philosophy of Jigsaw and as the series continues it is left to find increasingly implausible ways to insert Jigsaw into the story.
Bottom Line: Saw V is a disappointment in what has been a consistent series. Obviously anyone who did not like previous Saw films won’t like this one but even Saw fans are likely to be disappointed by this film’s lack of surprise and its mishandling of the material.
Episode: #214 (November 16, 2008)