The better half of three.
Saw 4 is where the series really starts playing around with the timeline. Instead of seeing things as a contained series of events, we now have to have a deep lore. A lot of this film is in the past, and chronicles Kramer’s descent into madness. We then have two additional threads that set-up a large twist at the end. Oh boy.
One thing I have to give this series credit for is that the films look and feel mostly consistent. On the one hand, this is nice because each film does feel like it belongs. On the other, cheap tricky shortcuts used in the first film to save money just seem forced here. We have more quick cuts and odd slow-motion crap here than we have in the others. With each new entry, these little tricks stand out as a little more obnoxious.
With that in mind, it is hard to determine how the film looks. It is directed and shot like a Saw film. Nothing new, but nothing missing, either. Once again, I have to say that this is something this franchise does better than the Hellraiser series overall. Each of the Saw films also enjoyed a theatrical release, so no matter how dumb we think they have gotten, they are still bringing in money.
We have three storylines, and any of them alone might have been okay. Let’s start with the weakest of the three: Kramer and his wife Jill (Betsy Russell) and their stupid lives. I know that might be a bit harsh, but manufacturing more history to Jigsaw undoes a lot of the already established lore. The series now presents him as some sort of vigilante, which is incredibly stupid, particularly when we add in how many innocent people are killed in this film. It is sad to see what happened to Jill and John, but it just isn’t that interesting. We all know more or less what is going to happen, who is going to do it, and whether or not there will be revenge. For those who aren’t sure: dead baby, crackhead, and ooohhhh yes.
I think the writers felt forced into having more Tobin Bell in the film, so they gave more for Jigsaw to say and do. While this might seem logical, it creates the most inconsistent and frankly boring segment of an otherwise competent film. Cutting these sections out would have helped a lot, and would have trimmed the running time down.
Our second story follows SWAT officer Rigg (Lyriq Bent), who has been present for most of the series. Rigg is being tested by Jigsaw in a seemingly city-wide puzzle. The constant change of scenery is nice, and something the series should have embraced before. Rigg’s story is interesting—albeit predictable. However, he is obsessed with helping people and wants to save everyone—doesn’t really seem like he should be a target of Jigsaw, does it? All weirdness aside, this at least feels like a fun mystery to be solved.
The third story introduces two FBI agents, Perez (Athena Karkanis) and Strahm (Scott Patterson) who are trying to determine who else is working with Jigsaw. Perez is little more than cannon fodder and Strahm is the most over-the-top tough guy ever. I would have enjoyed this chunk more if he wasn’t always turned to 11 on the aggressive behavior.
I honestly expected to be snarkier on this review, but honestly, this one isn’t horrible. The stupid segments where we see Jigsaw learning to ride a bike and baking cookies (sarcasm) are lame, and so is the needless twist at the end, but it actually makes this one the better half of three. Since this film takes place at the same time, we can see that the third one is the worse of the two. For fans, this one is at least entertaining. 5/10