Rating: R for extreme gore, violence, and profanity
Run Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Just in time for Halloween another gruesome fable that scores points for grisly effort and little else.
Cary Elwes stars as philandering oncologist Dr. Larry Gordon, who wakes from a drugged stupor to find himself chained to a pipe in a filthy hole of a washroom with an armed corpse lying in a pool of blood and a total stranger (Leigh Whannell as Adam) chained to the other end
The conundrum is unraveled by a steady series of mysterious clues; a fluorescent X marking the wall, a cell-phone that receives but won’t send, and a tiny cassette in each man’s pocket. The cassette player is firmly in the grip of the corpse’s wounded hands, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Our heroes perform less than admirably under extreme pressure, not surprising considering that Dr. G’s tape instructs him to murder Adam by 6pm same day or his wife and child will be eviscerated.
Flashbacks lead the captive pair to a number of unpleasant realizations about their own lives and also chart the sketchy history of a serial killer known only as “Jigsaw”, a Machiavellian psychopath who plays ghastly games with his victims resulting in lurid deaths. One particularly nasty piece of the puzzle compels a frenzied female locked in an injurious jaw rig to dig the missing key out of the stomach of her cell mate. Ugh.
I can’t look at Cary Elwes without conjuring up The Princess Bride or Robin Hood: Men in Tights; for my money he’s the wrong choice for an egoistic professional on the ugly end of a madman’s hit list. (The guy is and always has been a rotten actor). Only Danny Glover (as sharp-as-a-tack Detective Tapp) manages to surmount the silly scripting by playing it for camp value.
Repugnant is one thing and frightening is another. Saw showcases gratuitous gore and the ubiquitously macabre bells and whistles that pass themselves off as fear. Feeble attempts to bypass genre conventions fail while the shameless exploitation of a scared child’s pitiable screams of terror hurts. Rat-a-tat-tat climax is mildly redeeming, offering up an intriguing twist when least and last expected.