Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan
Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Cary Elwes, Sean Patrick Flanery, Chad Donella, Gina Holden, Laurence Anthony, Dean Armstrong, James Van Patten
R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, and language
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You have to go into a series like this expecting a certain measure of gore and violence that has only increased in the last quarter century. The Saw series has been labeled torture porn and while there were films in the series that I would resist such a description, this final chapter really does seem to epitomize that description.
A rambling narrative that attempts to tie up the series’ loose ends, this final feature follows Jigsaw’s widow Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell) as she attempts to reveal Det. Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) as an impersonator and prevent him from using her husband’s work as a means to take revenge on Hoffman’s enemies. And while these two fight for supremacy, someone else has begun a new game trying to expose tell-all fraud Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flannery) who has claimed to have been one of Jigsaw’s victims but was not. Yet, his test isn’t for his own survival, but those of his closest associates, each having inflamed and encouraged his deceit.
This parallel narrative structure has been a staple of the series and remains one of its more compelling elements. Yet, when the goriness and inventiveness of the traps becomes more important than the thematic elements, this film shows how stale and imitative it has become. The gimmick had long ago worn out. Saw III was the last of the truly original concepts and each one after was a pale simulacrum. And while I appreciated the sixth film in the series, it was obvious there wasn’t much originality left in the series.
What’s worse about this seventh film is that the producers decided to make it in 3D and while I only watched it in the standard two dimensions, I could see every painful, gratuitous segment meant to rely on that invasive technology. And while I respect the series for having breathed a small measure of life into the careers of young actors whose past successes haven’t parlayed into renewable growth. The first film brought Cary Elwes some new fans (he reprises his originating role in this final film) and later films resuscitated the career of former New Kids on the Block singer Donnie Wahlberg. And while this last film tried to give Flannery a boost, the film’s dismal box office performance may not have done much to help him, which is too bad. While not a very good performance, it helped me remember what potential Flannery had in his early career and I can only hope that at least one good thing can come out of this dreadful film…and that’s a revival of Flannery’s career.
Fans of the series may feel a bit of satisfaction at finally seeing Jigsaw’s plans come to a close, but even they have become weary of the series, as evinced by its annually weakening box office receipts. Many of them will wait until DVD to watch it like I have removing any real need for the film to have been in 3D to begin with. However, the finality of it all has shown me one thing. And hopefully other filmmakers learn a bit of something as well. If you have a great idea, one you think will fly, don’t rebuild it in each sequel trying to reveal some hidden content that wasn’t in the first to make it feel like it was all a part of the whole. It’s what sank The Matrix trilogy. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t attempt to re-write your past in hopes of creating a viable future because it won’t work and you’ll just look foolish trying.
February 8, 2011