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"Saw II"

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman.
Written by Leigh Whannel and Darren Lynn Bousman.
Starring Donnie Wahlberg, Shawnee Smith, Franky G and Tobin Bell.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  11/01/2005


The first "Saw", a film that really should have been dogshit, featured what might have been the best ending in a film last year that elevated it a full two grades in my book; one could imagine that the original film's creators, director James Wan and co-star Leigh Whannel, came up with an ending so brilliant that they just had to come up with a halfway-decent storyline to set it all up.  Well, they did, and had enough kitschy work from stars Cary Elwes and Danny Glover to pull it off.  That, and a boatload of blood and gore.

The sequel, which actually looks cheaper and has less acting talent than the first film, brings back our main man, the psychopath known as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell).  In the city where the original film took place, a dirty cop named Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) tracks down Jigsaw after Jigsaw leaves clues for Matthews that gives away the location of his lair.  Since the assumption is that you have seen the first "Saw", you know this is all a, when Matthews and a big-league S.W.A.T. team arrive at the Jigsaw warehouse, he's just sitting there, waiting for Matthews and friends to play his newest game--trying to figure out the whereabouts of an abandoned house filled with seven people, all set to die in two hours unless the cops can find the house.  Worse, Jigsaw invites the cops to watch all of these folks die on closed-circuit TV, which is streaming the action in on six monitors from cameras scattered throughout the house.  Oh, and one more of those people is Matthews' son Daniel (Eric Knudsen), so Matthews has got to act fast!

"Saw" made a ton of money--$55 million, when all was said and done, on a $2 million budget.  And that was just in theater box office; it made an additional killing on home video earlier this year.  So, one would think that they would have a comfortable margin in reserves to make a, say, $10 million sequel, right?  Wow, maybe even $8 million?  In today's terms, that is nothing.  Horror films, by their nature, are cheap, relatively easy to make and these days they all seem to make a decent showing for their respective opening weekend.  But why does "Saw II" look so bad?  Why does the film feature actors even worse than in the first film?  Donnie MOTHERFUCKING Wahlberg?  The only good thing he has done is appear in the utterly peerless war drama "Band of Brothers."  Otherwise, I would argue that amongst guys with famous brothers, he might even fall below Frank Stallone, director of the worst film ever made, "Hard Vice."  In "Saw II", as we watch Wahlberg play Matthews as the tired, clichéd over-the-edge cop that was written for him, you can just sense how difficult it must have been to direct someone so talentless in something so poorly written.  I can just see it now:

Director:  "Okay Donnie, this time I need you to act REALLY pissed off that Jigsaw has imprisoned your son."
Wahlberg:  "You mean, like I did when I pounded my fist on the table?"
Director:  "No...let's add another layer to this, so this time, pound your fist and then wipe down your face with the same hand.  THAT will sell it!"

Franky G (another burning-hot star: his TV show "Jonny Zero" bombed miserably on FOX last year) is another of the stars that is perfectly cast but has a tired part to play; even Dina Meyer (biggest film hit: "Starship Troopers") seems to forget how to act following her extensive TV career, her line reading is so atrocious.  The only entertaining actor in this film is Tobin Bell, who plays the strangely-levelheaded killer as a funny anti-hero who is given a Past that adds an interesting layer to the story halfway through, something that is certainly different in terms of the genre.

But, you don't go to see horror films for the acting anyway.  How are the kills?  Surprisingly boring.  Even in the film's truly hair-raising spectacle, when one of the characters gets dumped into a shallow man-made pool of syringes that contains the key to a door, no one even dies.  A couple of guys get shot, one gets a bludgeon, a couple die of toxic nerve gas poisoning in the house.  One doesn't even die, she just kind of watches as her hands...well, you'll see.

SPOILERS!!  How were the surprises?  Well, much like the first film, you will either live or die by the end sequence of "Saw II", where we find out what kind of game Jigsaw is truly playing.  After the whopper of an ending from the first film, I was kind of expecting this one to not match the coolness of the first go-round...but, you kind of wonder what is happening right away in that house, thanks to the camerawork going on.  I won't claim that I had it figured out right away, just was curious as to why our man Matthews wasn't showing up on any feed when he arrived at the house.  And, come on, making the girl from the first movie that survived one of the games play the new devil child?  I was pawing for air, too.

I'm glad I watched "Saw II", because I was anxious to see if the magic was back...but, sadly, it was not, and since it made so much cash last weekend, we can guarantee ourselves a sequel any minute!  Blah...

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09