Tobin Bell as Jigsaw / John
Costas Mandylor as Hoffman
Betsy Russell as Jill
Dean Armstrong as Cale
Chad Donella as Gibson
Gina Holden as Joyce
Chester Bennington as Evan
Rebecca Marshall as Suzanne
Naomi Snieckus as Nina
Sean Patrick Flanery as Bobby Dagen
Cary Elwes as Dr. Gordon
Laurence Anthony as Rogers
James Van Patten as Dr. Heffner
Directed by Kevin Greutert
Jigsaw survivor, author and motivational speaker Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) has been using his inspirational story to help others get over their experiences in Jigsaw’s traps, something that doesn’t bode well with Jigsaw, currently Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who at the same time is trying to get revenge on Jigsaw’s widow Jill (Betsy Russell) after her attempt to kill him.
As someone who was never really into the original “Saw” but found some merits as the franchise progressed with Darren Bousman and writers Dunstan and Melton building upon the initiate premise to create a rich mythology, one can be optimistic “Saw 3D” would deliver as promised by wrapping up all loose ends while offering even gorier death traps with the introduction of 3D to the series.
It opens with a scene from the very first movie of Cary Elwes’ Dr. Gordon sawing off his leg and escaping from Jigsaw’s trap, a tease for his return later on, but it then becomes obvious this will indeed be a continuation from the previous movie. Before we get too far back into the conflict between Jigsaw successor Detective Hoffman and the killer’s widow Jill. We watch one of Jigsaw’s more public death traps play out involving a love triangle and a series of buzz saws and another elaborate trap involving a car and a gang of racists that delivers a disturbing four-way coup de grace. The former serves less purpose to the overall story than the latter.
We then meet Sean Patrick Flanery’s Bobby Dagen, a Jigsaw survivor who has used his powerful story to inspire other survivors to get over their own near-death experiences. Jigsaw isn’t happy about Dagen’s newfound success at his expense so he decides to put the author through another series of tests, essentially another gauntlet where he has to save the people around him including the loving wife who got him through his initial ordeal.
There is no question the movie looks fantastic with all of it working well when filmed in 3D, much better than other gory horror films that tried to go that route in fact, and it’s surprising to see director Kevin Greutert break away from the quick-cut editing that plagued the earlier films. Even so, “Saw 3D” feels even more rushed than other recent installments with corners clearly being cut every step of the way from the development of a logical script to the uninspiring score that may as well have been reused from the previous six chapters.
Obviously, the big draw for the movie, as before, are the death traps and their gory results. The “Pit and the Pendulum” tension of whether each victim will escape or save themselves is always there, even if the movie continues the tradition of not leaving many survivors. It seems particularly cruel and vicious this time around and often goes too far to the point where even those with the strongest stomachs might squirm, such as watching a key on a fishhook being pulled through someone’s gastric system. The truth is that Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw was a lot more focused and driven to help people by testing them. Hoffman’s Jigsaw is just a sadistic killer who gets thrills by torturing people, including the viewer.
Even so, Costas Mandylor has improved greatly as an actor over the course of playing Detective Mike Hoffman, as has Betsy Russell as Jigsaw’s wife, but that leaves Chad Donella as Hoffman’s fellow police officer Gibson – no, don’t worry, you didn’t miss him in a previous chapter as he’s another new character coming into the franchise and another actor going overboard with a ridiculous over-the-top performance that does little to enhance the material.
Like with “Saw 3,” the film’s biggest problem is that it’s constantly trying to juggle a number of concurrent stories. Trying to figure out how all of it is taking place at the same time might hurt your brain, because Hoffman/Jigsaw seems fairly busy with the police after him. Are we to believe that he can set up two elaborate traps–one in public–stay ahead of the police and put Bobby through an elaborate gauntlet of complex traps especially after barely surviving the last movie? This has been an ongoing problem with the series in that it’s impossible to believe any one person could possibly design and build all the traps, kidnap the victims, etc. (The fact that the production designers can do so in the space of less than a year is impressive as always.)
The biggest disappointment may be that Tobin Bell, the very heart and soul of the franchise, is even less in this movie than previous chapters, essentially making a cameo to try to tie together the different stories by meeting Bobby at a book signing sometime after he survived Jigsaw’s traps. Now, we already know his Jigsaw is dead and those first three movies happened in such a short span of space, you wonder how he could have met Bobby presumably months or years after his own experience. It just doesn’t fit and it’s one of the many plot flaws glossed over for the sake of having one last Tobin Bell flashback. Bell should have been allowed a better send-off, having been there from the beginning.
All the questions are probably what led the filmmakers to deliver another somewhat expected twist–essentially the exact same twist of at least three of the previous movies–to try and convince us that the original Jigsaw had more help than we were originally shown, but it just solidifies the sad fact that they’ve run out of ideas.
The Bottom Line:
If you’re looking for gory spectacle, you’ll have that in spades (and in 3D, too!), but otherwise, the combination of lazy writing, convoluted storytelling, overacting and often grueling-to-watch death traps will make you say, “Thank God that’s over!”… and you may as well be referring to the entire franchise at this point.