James Frey, whose fictional autobiography, “A Million Little Pieces,” got him roasted on Oprah Winfey’s sofa for 48 minutes, got off easy compared to Bobby Dagen, ably played by Sean Patrick Flanery, who is tortured (along with the audience) for 90 minutes for concocting a fictional best seller about surviving the Jigsaw killer in “Saw 3D” or “Saw VII” — depending on one’s point of view.
Horror thriller’s plot is simple. The late Jigsaw John (Tobin Bell) who appears in flashback, had an accomplice, which everyone who saw “Saw VI” knows is crooked Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) whose career has not exactly soared since his stint on David E. Kelly’s “Picket Fences”. He may be best remembered by some as the fellow in HBO’s TV series, “Sex and the City,” with a male part too big even for Samantha (Kim Cattrall) to handle.
Bobby Dagen is raking in cash on his book tour. Hoffman gets upset about this (why is anyone’s guess) and sets out to right matters. He also has a beef with Jigsaw John’s widow, Jill (Betsy Russell), who has fingered him to the cops as her late husband’s accomplice and tried to kill him. At least that makes sense.
Like the rest of the Saw series, “Saw 3D” relies on about one dead body every ten minutes, cheesy special effects, and relentless villains to achieve suspense. The vics are also not guilt free. They mostly (with a few exceptions) did something bad…. In other words, they’re human.
This alleged thriller relies on an extraordinary suspension of disbelief. Hoffman’s traps depend on perfect timing, amazing mechanical perfection, and a puppet showing up on TV at exactly the right moment to move the plot along. The money such a setup would cost would be far beyond the means of a policeman. It would be the kind of cash that would make Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke apoplectic.
By now everyone who knows anything about the Saw franchise knows that its central premise is that life is about choices. Unfortunately for those caught in Jigsaw’s traps, said choices are Hobson’s on steroids. Pic’s second scene is set in an urban storefront in which two guys, both dated by an attractive women held overhead in a sling which emphasizes her most excellent endowments, are chained to circular saws. In order to save the girl, one of them must saw the other to death. If they save each other, the girl gets sawed to death. This is classic Saw. It is also a tad unfortunate since the unaccredited actress is sort of righteous.
“Saw 3D” also plagiarizes other works. Hoffman stitching his face after Jill’s alleged murder attempt is straight out of Spanish pic “Pan’s Labyrinth.” A bit in which Bobby has to shove hooks into his pectoral muscles was used to much better effect by Arthur Kopit in “Indians,” both on stage and on screen.
3D is a gimmick that Hollywood tried about 50 years ago. It coincided with the Hula Hoop. There is nothing new under the sun gear, as “Road & Track” magazine founder John Bond said. Hollywood is reviving the gimmick to get bodies to shell out money to see subpar films. It will work for a while. Thus far your critic has seen only one picture that benefitted from 3D: It is “Despicable Me” (which is reviewed on this site). Heck, even CBS Sports is toying with 3D to get folks to watch its depleted roster on television. Note to programmers: 3D does not make up for crummy material. A compelling work can be shown on a 13-inch black and white TV screen and hold one’s interest, if not one’s breath.
Helmer Kevin Greutert was an editor on many of the Saw pictures and directed
“Saw VI”. Tech credits, save for the cheesy special effects, are adequate. So is sound recording, although “Saw 3D” could be a silent picture and be none the worse for it. Dialogue is at best banal. Performances are almost universally awful. Only Flanery rises above the material, which is not saying much.
“Saw 3D” is billed as the end of the Saw franchise. That would be a good thing. With No. 7 it has jumped the shark. But your critic fears otherwise. Pic leaves a number of dangling participles on any of which can be hung “sequel.” Auds do not know if Bobby dies or if Hoffman dies. And it is revealed that Jigsaw John had a second accomplice, a blond haired physician (Cary Elwes) who cauterized his stump after amputating his own leg — pic’s opening scene. Near pic’s end it is revealed that Jigsaw John made the guy his “executor” of sorts. The future will depend on the box office that “Saw 3D” does.
Released just in time for Halloween, “Saw 3D” is rated R according to its press materials “for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, and language [sic].” Take a pass. Put the Jigsaw guys out of their misery.