Watch Of The Week: Saw X
“Saw X” is “Saw 1.5” chronologically, taking place between the first and second films in the OG torture porn franchise. Quality-wise, though, it is closer to a 10 than a zero, which cannot be said about most of the other nine movies in this distressingly popular series. The squeamish won’t enjoy it, yet this first totally linear narrative in the “Saw” saga is a well-told tale with some solid characterisations and quite decent twists. Except for an early fake-out or two, Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger’s script is rather slow in getting to the good stuff. But once it does, the outlandish contraptions and self-mutilating predicaments that protagonist Jigsaw devises show some diabolical genius.
Sorry, did we call him Jigsaw? In Saw X, Tobin Bell, the actor who portrays both that master trap maker and his alter ego, retired civil engineer John Kramer, definitely emphasizes the latter. To him, the folks his traps torment aren’t victims but lostsouls he wants to teach to appreciate life and smell the roses. That is if they come out of his frightening games with their noses intact — or their heads still attached. In this instalment, set between 2004’s Saw and 2005’s Saw II, John heads to Mexico to get an experimental treatment for the brain tumour killing him. It shouldn’t be brain surgery to figure out it’s a scam, but Bell sells John’s quiet desperation to believe.
The sadistic, self-styled saviour of those he judges even sheds a tear here and fixes a kid’s bike; we could almost mistake John for a hero.
Bell has never acted so much in a Saw movie before and, in a wispy, whispery way, clearly relishes this star-turn opportunity. The octogenarian,
though fit, looks his age rather than like the stricken mid-50sJohn Kramer he’s portraying. But if you go to one of these movies expecting total believability, I’ve got a cure for cancer to sell you.
Shawnee Smith is back as Jigsaw’s not quite demented enough apprentice, Amanda, who is learning the ropes— made from human intestines — so
to speak. Norwegian actress Synnøve Macody Lund is delectably amoral as Cecilia Pederson, the quack who doesn’t care about her co-conspirators any more than she does her dying clients. The torture devices do offer their captives quite cinematic ways to die. In keeping with the movie’s theme, most have a medical component, and the coolest ones exhibit some Aztec flair — though director Kevin Greutert didn’t do all he could have with the film’s Mexico locations.
In the end, Saw X looks like every other torture chamber in the franchise. Still, Greutert, who’s edited all 10 of these movies and now directed three, has an instinct for what works best and what it can mean. Though he’s driven by mortality and moral superiority, John has a moment here when he reckons with his twisted rationale. His body may still have a few months to live, but his jigsawed soul dies right there.