Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Shawnee Smith, Shauna MacDonald, Devon Bostick
Directed by Kevin Gruetert
Somewhere within the Saw universe’s ridiculously convoluted back story is a film showing how the dying “Jigsaw Killer” John Kramer (Tobin Bell) won the lottery, set up corporate offices, and hired legions of worker elves to build a “torture district” the size of Disneyland. It would be a helluva lot more entertaining than watching his uber-secret second protégé (Mandylor, Mandylor, Costas Mandylor) tiptoe around the events of the previous films, which was all that the abysmal Saw V really had to offer.
But if you can suspend your disbelief and get over the standard “cover-our-tracks flashbacks,” Saw VI will satisfy all your blood cravings. Not only does this entry get the series back on track, it’s also the most engaging and well crafted entry to date. No kidding.
With slick, confident direction by series editor Kevin Greutert and a clever script by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, Saw VI plays out like Michael Moore’s House of Horrors. Targeting the controversial U.S. health care system, Jigsaw’s game incorporates all the players of the greedy insurance company that denied him the coverage that would have spared his life from cancer. It’s a provocative concept, especially for the sixth entry in a deteriorating franchise, but the gamble pays off in the end. This slant makes Saw’s signature traps and moral dilemmas more twisted and topical than ever before.
Reviewing a Saw film is always difficult since going into any detail about the tricks and twists would be criminal (and that’s what these movies live for). But within the first few minutes, it’s clear Greutert’s skills as an editor give this series the focus it needed from the very beginning. Everything about Saw VI feels more organic and cohesive than all the previous entries (although casual viewers may still find themselves lost during a couple of revelations) with traps that are some of the most brutal and inventive of the series.
Of course, Tobin Bell delivers another knock-out performance, but it’s Mandylor – who is finally given something to do this go-around – who in the end earns his wings as a threatening new successor to Jigsaw.
Even when it becomes a slave to the franchise’s ever-convoluted continuity, Saw VI is able to stand on its own as a wild and brutal thrill ride. Hats off to the creative team for finally injecting some much needed life-blood into a franchise we’ve all but written off.
Game over? Not by a long shot.
4 out of 5
Can’t wait to sing “Mandylor … Mandylor … COSTAS MANDYLOR!”?
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