Saw II Movie Review

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When I was living in New York, I had the misfortune of spending a better part of one night in Penn Station. Tired of wandering, I wound up in the men's room around 3:45 AM and was greeted by quite a sight: a homeless man bathing in the sink, another making dreadful noises in a toilet stall, and a janitor sweeping up God know what off the yellow tiled floor. The janitor was smoking and the bathing homeless man asked him for a drag. The janitor requested that the homeless man to show him his teeth and the homeless guy obliged, presenting a sore mouth with maybe two or three black and yellow teeth jutting from obscenely swollen gums. The janitor said, "Alright," shrugged, and then let the guy take a drag of his smoke. After the guy with the rotting mouth took a nice long drag, the janitor took back the cigarette and smoked the rest of it.

Saw II made me feel like I was watching that same thing for 90 odd minutes. It's a picture as revolting as it is needless.

The original Saw was a film I found repellent for all the wrong reasons. It wasn't that the plot was so incredibly gruesome and twisted that I was sickened by it. It was that the direction was so shoddy, the acting so painfully stilted and the cinematography so wretchedly amateurish that I walked away thinking, could they possibly make an uglier film?

Well, the answer has arrived and it a definite yes. Saw II carries the dubious distinction of being an entirely valueless film. Unlike the original the plot isn't even clever, it falls apart in the third act and the denouement is less of an "are you serious?" than it is a "please, tell me you're kidding." Like eating a really nasty chili cheese dog that will come out in a torrent a few hours later, Saw II is neither good going in nor good coming out. That is, watching it is nauseating and then thinking about it afterwards is sickening.

Like its grimy predecessor, Saw II is nothing to look at. It's set in a dank, decaying house. The characters are all dripping gore and sweat and phlegm and who knows what other ulcerous fluids. The lighting is minimal and grim. The color palette ranges from yellow brown to green grey and the music swells with industrial throbbing, grinding, and squealing. It's as though the picture were actually filmed inside one of the toilet bowls at Penn Station.

The plot is structured similarly to the first. You've got a maniacal and brilliant serial killer, Jigsaw (though, he insists he's never murdered anyone in his life), who traps people in elaborate and deadly Rube Goldberg machines. You know the type, the ball drops on the spring and the spring flicks the match and the lit match burns the rope and the rope is attached to the trigger of a gun... But rather than showcase really craftily constructed little devices of mayhem, Jigsaw makes really clunky, filthy, rust-and-oil-covered contraptions that would surely never really work. Why can't he afford to buy a new bear trap? The guy's a maniacal and brilliant serial killer, you'd think he'd at least have some pride in his work.

In Saw II, a bunch of losers are trapped in a house that is booby-trapped with these rusty old devices. The protagonists are all poisoned with nerve gas and the only way to find the antidote is to... well, the problem is that it really isn't clear how exactly you get the antidote. Jigsaw claims that there is a method to the madness: That it's a game and there is a solution. But the solution never really comes. The film bypasses the complexities, and the only fun, of actually solving the puzzle. It's as if writers Leigh Whannel and Darren Lynn Bousman decided, ah, let's just give them more gore and they'll forget that we don't really let the audience in on the solution. They won't complain.

I suppose this all goes back Fincher's brilliant but deeply disturbing Seven. It grossed boffo bucks and grossed out terrified audiences. Every year since, a young maverick shows up in tinseltown trotting out Seven's tried and true formula of gross out and complex plot maneuvering. But films like Saw II never get it right. They focus on the filth more than the fury and it just ends up like my night in Penn Station's men's room: needlessly revolting. And for reasons I really don't want to contemplate, I'm sure it'll end up the number one film this weekend.

Tastes like chicken.

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Saw II Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: R, 2005

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