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Directed by James Wan.
Written by Leigh Whannell.
Starring Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannel, Danny Glover and Ken Leung.
Release Year:  2004 
Review Date:  11/15/04


I really thought that "Saw" was going to, why didn't it?

Maybe it's because somebody came up with a fairly cool idea, flipped the story around so most of it comes in flashback, and then drove it home with a great, great ending.  Who does that any more??

"Saw" starts out with two guys locked up in a room with a dead body, an unloaded gun and a tape recorder.  Through a couple of clues left by a shady psychopath, the two guys--Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes, who did "The Princess Bride" almost 20 years ago now) and Adam (Leigh Whannell, who also wrote the screenplay)--find a few more items in the room...including two hacksaws, which don't seem to cut through the chains keeping the men prisoner but DO seem to cut very well through human flesh...

...and, of course, there's more, but to not give it all away, you'll need to see what happens for yourself.  Here's the thing--"Saw" is surprisingly watchable, even if you don't enjoy watching some of the more grisly details of why the men are in the room in the first place or who this psychopath really is.  Man, there's just this absolutely nasty sequence where the killer has got this headress on a woman that must find a key for her contrapment in a dead body...that...well, isn't really dead yet...that...whoa.  Meanwhile, we get to learn more about what landed Adam and the doctor in the room, and this helps build the tension behind how the men are going to get outta there before a timeline is hit and both men are murdered by the killer.

Director James Wan (a rookie) does a great job of keeping things tense by giving us a couple of scares mixed with some really nasty stuff, too.  But, he's lucky to have some decent actors; Danny Glover does decent work with a throwaway part, and Elwes is his reliable self as the doctor faced with either letting himself die in his new mini-prison or killing his cellmate to save the lives of his family.  And the desolate feel of the cell where the two guys are being held is just perfect for all of this; you almost feel half sick to your stomach just watching the guys in that cell, waiting to die.

But, it's the ending that lifts "Saw" from Matinee to $9.50 Show; I like the twisty ending periodically if it really suits the film just right, but in "Saw" the ending is nearly perfect.  I mean, I was fairly happy when this thing was winding down, but then they just drop it on you, and you're like "Damn!  That was good, bro!"  Yeah, I was liking that shit alotsa.  Thought I had it fairly well figured out but didn't see that one coming; that kind of good, you know?

Hey, you're right, it's not going to win the Oscar, but I had a good time and "Saw" is very engaging.  Not for the squeamish, not at all.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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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