Rated: R :: Released: 27 October 2017
Director: The Spierig Brothers :: Starring: Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, Hannah Emily Anderson, and Tobin Bell
By James D. Deaux IV
16 May 2019 — Oh, hello. Didn't see you there. Probably because this is a collection of words on a website and there is no eye contact. So, this is the Tranquil Tirades — not the podcast you might have listened to over the last six or so years — but the original written incarnation. Yes, I have decided to go back to my roots, such as they are, of writing reviews instead of going the audio route. Just to give you a sense of how long it has been since I last wrote a movie review, when my most "recent" written Tirades review was published in 2010, only two Marvel Cinematic Universe films had been released. So, yeah, it has been a while. Unfortunately, something else that happened in 2010 was what we had hoped (futilely, I might add) would be the final entry in a film franchise that had confused, angered, and, at times, actually indirectly caused physical harm to some people who had reviewed them. That film was none other than Saw 3D (AKA Saw VII and Saw: The Final Chapter. The Saw franchise has been one of the most controversial and divisive in cinematic history, due mainly to how people choose to classify it. For those who extol the series, they claim the movies "make you think" and that the Jigsaw character is some kind of folk hero. On the other side of the argument, people such as myself believe that the series is just a poorly acted, poorly written gore-porn festival that cannot even stick to its supposed plotline. However, if there is one thing that nearly everyone who has seen the series from start to finish can agree upon, it is that the original Saw had an utterly brilliant premise: a disillusioned man with a terminal disease who has endured endless heartbreak and loss takes it upon himself to leave his mark on the world by punishing those he deems are not appreciative enough of their lives. That is perfect. There is a ton of ground you could cover there. Unfortunately, the people who have written these movies over the last decade and a half took that concept and mangled and butchered it to the point where the series as a whole became nothing more than a parody of itself, constantly just trying to one-up itself year after year with gorier deaths and "cooler" traps. The original meaning of the Jigsaw killer's modus operandi was lost so long ago that anyone trying to explain the series would probably have an aneurysm before they reached the middle of Saw II.
Which brings me to the subject of this review — the final (ha) chapter in the Saw franchise: Jigsaw. Though the full title is Jigsaw: No, Seriously, We Mean It — This is Where it All Ends for Real for Real.
After I finished my excruciating first viewing of this wholly unnecessary movie, I was at a complete loss for words, and, amazingly, it wasn't strictly because of the plot holes or retcons. Sure, the movie is inundated with them like every other entry in this bloated series, but dozens of movies I've covered over the years have been composed of seemingly nothing but plot holes. That wasn't what had me speechless. My actual immediate thought was, "Why did anything in this movie happen?" Obviously, I am going to go into absurd detail as I am wont to do, but literally nothing in this movie needed to happen. Every single element of this film was completely unnecessary. And I don't mean that as a sardonic commentary about the movie being made. (Though I certainly wish it never happened.) I mean, the person who turns out to be behind the murders committed these crimes in a certain manner for literally no discernible or logical reason. Fair warning, this entire review could be dubbed "Workshop Time," but let's just get down to it.
This film takes place 10 years after John Kramer died, and, as with every Saw film, this one alternates back and forth between a Jigsaw game and a police investigation. The movie opens with a police chase of some felon named Edgar, who winds up on a roof ranting and raving that he is being forced to play a game and he isn't going to die. The police shoot a detonation device out of his hand, but a bullet hits him in the torso. The lead detective, Halloran, played by Dr. Malus from Jessica Jones, is not happy that one of his officers supposedly shot him in a vital area when he ordered them not to. (More on this later.) We are then very quickly shown our quintet of Jigsaw-game-playing victims, and they are all chained to an apparatus that is set to pull them into doors with circular saw blades, unless they make an "offering of blood, no matter how small." What this entails is them nicking or slicing their extremities on the whirring blades, which immediately opens their respective doors, preventing their demises. The fifth one of these people is unconscious, which totally means he will be killed and certainly won't come back as the newest (re: oldest) Jigsaw apprentice at the end of the movie. This guy is "killed" off-camera and the remaining four make it into the next room.
In this room, Billy the Puppet tricycles in with another tape recorder. "Blah blah blah, liar, repent, how much is a life worth?" I honestly think he's just reading Stryper liner notes. I also feel the need to remind everyone that John Kramer built Billy for his unborn child. This thing — which looks like the illegitimate offspring of Pennywise and a mime that works in the Silent Hill Otherworld, and which one of the victims here sarcastically remarks, "No, that's not creepy at all" — was going to be a present for his infant child. Saw fans, go ahead and tell me how smart and heroic John Kramer is again. I'll wait. Anyway, the four remaining players will be hanged if this blonde woman named Carly doesn't inject herself with one of three syringes full of different liquids. One is a simple saline solution, one is the cure to a poison Jigsaw injected her with while she was unconscious, and the other is an acid that will cause an exceedingly painful death. If she doesn't do it, she will doom all of them to being hanged. Her sin is that she snatched a purse from an asthmatic and for some reason, along with the rich sum of $3.53, she also stole this woman's inhaler, which caused her to die when she collapsed after chasing her. She refuses to do anything, so they start getting pulled up by the chains, which prompts one of the others to jam all three syringes into her neck. They are all dropped back to the ground, but Carly's neck and face start dissolving as she dies. Farewell, Jigsaw Victim #912, we hardly knew ye.
Here's a question, and it is one that has been asked... well, seven times before, but I will ask it for the eighth time: why am I supposed to care about any of these people? This happens in every single movie in this series: a group of less-than-shining examples of human life are put into traps, and we, the audience, are supposed to... what, exactly? Do they want us to root for their escape or their deaths? Pick one. These are your only options. If it is the former, then why do we get only the flimsiest of back stories on any of them — if we even get a back story. Further, why do they make 95% of these paper-thin characters utter raging idiots and / or assholes? If it is the latter, then this only furthers my point that this series stopped having any semblance of intelligence after the original film. (Though even that is giving this franchise too much credit.) For so long it has solely focused on the traps and mindless gore. Even Anna, who to this point was the de facto smart (kinda sorta question mark) one, loses her shit on Ryan who literally saved their lives by sacrificing Carly. Literally none of these four people are even remotely sympathetic.
In this movie, we are introduced to two police forensic pathologists named Logan and Eleanor. Logan's backstory is that he took out several Taliban members, but was captured and apparently tortured for a considerable time as a POW in Fallujah. He seems to have about eight or nine physical scars on his back, but those aren't even from his torture. And nothing else. His face is good enough to be on the cover of GQ. Also, Fallujah is in Iraq, not Afghanistan, which is where the Taliban is from. If you can't even get basic geography correct, you might as well be a Michael Bay movie. This Logan person does have the only good line in this entire movie, though: "Would you want to move to Cleveland?" As for Eleanor, her thing is she's a Jigsaw fanatic. She surfs the dark web and frequents a "Jigsaw Rules" fansite. She also literally owns (or at the very least rents) a building where she houses full-size replicas of Jigsaw traps — including one that was never used in a Jigsaw game. (Gee, I wonder if this is foreshadowing?) How she would have the time or wherewithal to build any of these ridiculous contraptions is beyond me, because I'm reasonably sure that ME's don't make that much money. Certainly not enough to own / rent a multistory building that can house what has to be tens of thousands of dollars of scrap metal needed to make these replicas. She identifies the dead body / first victim as some guy named Malcolm. He owed money to the wrong people and they killed his wife, and Logan caustically asks Halloran if he ever got around to nabbing the people who killed the wife. (Gee, I wonder if this is foreshadowing?) He has a jigsaw piece carved out of his skin, and a flash drive in his neck that plays Jigsaw's voice saying there are four players left in his game.
In the next lovely room of death, there is a door with "NOT AN EXIT" spray painted on it, which Ryan, the genius, decides would be a great door to try and jimmy, blatantly breaking Jigsaw's earlier warning against any attempt at cheating. His leg then falls through the floor by the door into a booby trap that wraps wires around his leg that tighten more and more as the minutes pass. A tape recorder is among these wires. After Mitch, the other of these three, finally manages to get it out, it plays. Jigsaw's voice says that he will be made an example of for breaking the rules, but that he can pull the lever to free himself. Meanwhile, our other two protagonists(?) meander around to another door that leads them into a silo that locks them in, as grain begins raining down. Ryan is the only one who can save them, but he has to pull the lever and slice his lower leg off to do it. That isn't the best part, though. After the grain stops pouring, saw blades, knives, and dozens of other deadly metal objects start falling down the spout into the silo. Every single one (except one butcher knife) misses Anna and Mitch completely. So, in this, what will be revealed later as the very first Jigsaw game, Jigsaw, the man who claims he gives people the choice of whether to live or die, leaves the fates of these two completely up to chance because there is no way he could predict that every one of those sharp, pointy things would avoid the two inside there — especially when they were stuck and couldn't move at all. Saw fans, go ahead and defend this. I'll wait. Eventually, Ryan sacks up and pulls the lever. It slices his leg off, and saves the other two from immediate peril. So, let me see if I have this straight: Jigsaw designed a trap that would only deactivate if a lever was pulled from underneath a booby-trapped wooden step that was only activated because one of the three idiots decided to cheat the game. How did he know someone would try to cheat? How did he know they would step on that exact weak spot of wooden plank that would cause their foot to fall inside another very specific spot and activate this booby trap? If someone didn't try to cheat the game, would they all have just been screwed? Why was the silo trap there in the first place? It has no bearing on anything if none of them decided to cheat. This entire scene was completely useless.
The police then find a body that appears to have been a jumper on a sidewalk by a tall building. We presume that this is the body of Carly, because her face is melted, a jigsaw piece was carved out of her tongue, and there is a sign that says, "And then there were three." Logan meets up with Eleanor, because they have both come under suspicion by Halloran and his partner, Hunt. Eleanor eventually takes Logan to her "studio," as she calls it, which houses the aforementioned replicas of Jigsaw traps. She extols the "beauty" of one, in particular, which I like to call "The Spoiler." Why? Because every bit of exposition she churns out for the next minute basically gives away the ending of the movie. The device is a giant cone-shaped blender with what looks like a stove top burner inside. She says that John Kramer is rumored to have designed / built the trap for a game that never happened. Logan says none of Kramer's victims died in any device like this. She says maybe the bodies were never found, and Logan says maybe it never happened. If you can't guess that the game is just a bunch of flashbacks at this point, then you don't know how Saw writers work.
The Commissioner of the police wants John Kramer's body exhumed to prove he's really dead and to quell the panic gripping the city. Halloran tells his partner to take care of that nonsense, because he needs to look into Logan's history. Somehow, Halloran can access confidential medical records just by doing a Google search. Doctor / patient confidentiality? What's that? He receives word that Edgar, who was in a coma, just disappeared from the hospital.
Meanwhile, back at the Legion of Gloom, the next of Jigsaw's 37,000,000 microcassette recorders is specifically for Mitch, which makes me wonder what would have happened if Mitch had died anywhere earlier in the game? Would Jigsaw have just deconstructed it, or just wait for another person on eBay to sell a faulty motorcycle? Then again, this is Jigsaw, the man who knows absolutely everything and can predict it all. (Except for how incompetent and failure-prone his minions always are.) Mitch plays it, and Jigsaw's voice says that Mitch admitted to selling a kid a motorcycle that he later died on, but that wasn't the whole story. Apparently, the bike had faulty brakes, but Mitch listed it as "in excellent condition." When the misled kid took the bike for a spin, the brakes failed and a garbage truck plowed into him. Jigsaw reveals that that kid was his nephew. His test for Mitch is the very device Eleanor was talking about in her exposition dump, and it is powered by the same engine from the motorcycle that Mitch sold to his nephew. Alright, let's break this one down. So John Kramer, who in seven previous movies was never said to have any other relatives besides his estranged wife, somehow knew that Mitch lied on his eBay listing and sold his nephew a death trap on two wheels. He somehow managed to recover the engine from the bike that was thoroughly disintegrated by this truck and I guess piece it back together in order to build this ridiculous-looking trap. How he would have obtained any of that considering it would have been part of a police investigation is anyone's guess. He also somehow knew Mitch would step into exactly the right spot on the barn floor to get ensnared by a Looney Tunes tree noose rope-like trap that would insert him into the top of this trap. Predictably, Mitch dies, getting flayed to ribbons. Farewell, Jigsaw Victim #913, we hardly knew ye.
The police unearth the Kramer coffin and, oh noes, Edgar's body is inside and Halloran puts out an APB for Eleanor. Um, wouldn't the police be able to see that the coffin had recently been dug up since Edgar's body was in there? Speaking of which, how the fuck did one guy kidnap Edgar from a busy hospital, kill him (and cut a jigsaw piece out of him), haul the body to Kramer's grave site, dig that coffin up by himself, take Jigsaw's remains out, put Edgar's corpse inside, seal the coffin back up, fill all the dirt back into the burial plot, and take Kramer's remains away without anyone noticing? You would have to think with the public panicking like they are, that people would be visiting that grave site constantly just to see for themselves. There is no possible way this could have happened. None.
Halloran and Hunt go to Eleanor's studio and see all the mock traps. Halloran also happens to spot a secret room where the sliced-up corpse of who we assume is Mitch falls from the ceiling. So, if Halloran or anyone else hadn't spotted that room, they wouldn't have found the body, right? Way to copy one of the dumbest scenes in Saw 3D, which was a movie comprised of literally nothing but dumb scenes. Also, this is where any shred of possibility that the game is happening concurrently with the police investigation goes completely out the window. There is no way the body of Mitch could have been moved to Eleanor's studio because Anna and Ryan are still conscious in the barn. They would have seen someone come into the barn and move his body. But since we have to keep watching this farce, let's move on.
Hunt goes to arrest Logan, but Logan tells him Halloran is the one behind everything. He found the third body, he ordered the remote in Edgar's hand to be destroyed, but he could have easily shot to kill Edgar in the chaos. Logan also reveals that Hunt is with Internal Affairs, and Hunt admits he's been investigating Halloran for years due to him being connected to multiple homicides over the last few years. Logan says that he needs to see Edgar's corpse, so he can identify and match the bullet to Halloran's firearm. Sure enough, they go to the morgue and the slug is from a model gun that Halloran uses. Logan goes back home and Eleanor is just inside his house. She says she knows where the game is being played. They drive off and Halloran follows after them.
Anna manages to break the "THIS IS NOT AN EXIT" door open, but Pighead McGee syringes her and she awakens in the final room of the game where none other than John Kramer greets her. She also knows him, for you see, they were neighbors. Ryan awakens, also. How he's still alive, no clue. John tells them they are about to play a game, which is what they've already been doing, which means they are playing a game within a game. And technically, since this is all a series of flashbacks anyway and part of a game-of-sorts being played by someone in the present, this is a game within a game within a game. This is a destitute man's Inception. Tobin Bell, by the way, looks incredibly old here, despite the fact that this is a flashback. John complains about how a simple labeling error misdiagnosed his bill of health all those years ago, and his cancer could have been discovered much sooner, saving him from years of agonizing treatments. (Keep in mind, this is the same guy who took health insurance from a guy, William Easton, who he knew for a fact purposely found any conceivable way to screw people out of insurance coverage.) John reveals that Ryan's drunken idiocy caused the death of two of his friends in high school. Ryan was standing up in the backseat of his friend's convertible and he fell out into the grass. This distracted his friend, causing him to plow into another car — killing him and their other friend. John says he lied to the police about this, blaming the driver for the entire thing. How in the name of Zardoz would he know what really happened? Was he there? If he wasn't, which there's no way in Hell that he was, then he would have no idea what actually happened.
He then turns his attention to Anna, whom he thanks for being so supportive during his initial chemo sessions, and he empathizes with her loss of a child. In all seriousness, in a better movie, this would be a pretty good scene. I have no complaints with Bell's acting. Honestly, I don't think I ever have criticized his performances in any Saw movie. He's a genuinely good actor. Anyway, Kramer says she lied about how her baby died. He says he heard her screaming in frustration at her baby's endless crying, leading to her smothering the baby with a pillow. However, she has always claimed that her husband rolled over on top of the baby while in bed, causing him to fall into suicidal despair. Again, how the hell would he know this unless he was in their house watching it as it happened? And wouldn't her husband have remembered that the baby was in the crib and not on the bed with him? Wouldn't he question how the baby made it to the bed? Kramer says they have a final test, which simply involves a shotgun with one shell in it, which he says is the key to their freedom. We'll come back to them momentarily.
Logan and Eleanor reach a barn where she claims that the game is being played. How she would have found this, because I don't think ME's have access to the same resources a detective would, is a mystery to me. Halloran gets the jump on them inside and a scuffle ensues, with Halloran smacking Logan right in the face with a wrench. Meanwhile, 10-plus years ago, Anna loses her mind, or what shred was left of it, and grabs the shotgun. However, Ryan remembers that Jigsaw said they were doing things backwards, and when she pulls the trigger, it backfires into her face, killing her instantly. Okay, when you are stealing things from Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, you need to just stop and immediately find a new career choice. Unfortunately for Ryan, the keys that will free him are destroyed. Farewell, Jigsaw Victims #914 and #915 — ah, you get the idea.
Halloran keeps looking for Eleanor, but gets syringed. Logan wakes up strapped to a device with seven laser cutters that can slice through just about anything in a matter of milliseconds. Halloran is across from him with the same device on his neck. Jigsaw's voice plays over the loudspeaker and says they are the final two players in the game. They must admit to their reasons that they deserve to die, and then they could be freed. Halloran presses a button for Logan's confessional to begin and he admits that he was the one who screwed up John Kramer's X-rays all those years ago. Apparently, this wasn't good enough of a confession and he gets lasered. Halloran's trial begins next and after the lasers get millimeters from his face, he admits that he put innocent people away and let murderers and rapists walk. His device turns off.
Okay, readers, are you ready for the huge swerve that you totally never saw coming?! Up from the floor, Logan rises, perfectly fine.
Yep. Logan was working with Jigsaw the entire time. That's right — since before the original Saw movie. Despite never being mentioned by Amanda, who was working with Jigsaw all along; or Hoffman, who was working with Jigsaw all along; or Dr. Gordon, who was working with Jigsaw all along; or Jill, who took over the games at some point to stop Hoffman from perverting them, I guess; or any of the random pig mask people from several movies. This guy was the actual original Jigsaw apprentice. And in the face of ludicrous improbability, he was apparently never known to any of them. Wouldn't Jigsaw have at least told Jill about this guy? That seems like a pretty important piece of information since Jill is basically the only person Jigsaw still cared about. Maybe he could have helped her not get bear-trapped by Hoffman?
Then, he reveals the heavily decomposed bodies of Anna and Ryan — who died a decade earlier. Everything we have been seeing in the barn was the very first of John Kramer's games; it was not happening in the present. I know, I know. I was shocked, too. They just pointlessly rehashed the same plot device from Saw II — a plot device that, in this movie, serves absolutely zero function within the context of the plot. It is literally only there to try to fool the audience. (More on this shortly.) This game was never known to the police and took place in a barn owned by Jill Tuck. Yet somehow it was never discovered / searched by the police and / or FBI? She was being grilled by Agent Strahm as early as the fourth movie, and was killed off in the seventh, but in over a decade they never found this huge piece of land that was in her family's name? Wouldn't that be something that comes up in the 837 different investigations of Kramer and Jill? Logan reveals that he was an actual player in that game, but John took pity on him and decided that he shouldn't have to die over an honest mistake.
Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?!
John Kramer. The man who has caused the brutally violent deaths of literally dozens of people, many of whom were after his demise a decade earlier. The man who put a good cop, Daniel Rigg, in a game because he was too obsessed with the job. Not because he was corrupt — just because he tried to save too many people. That guy wasn't worthy of mercy. Yet this guy, who was very clearly a ticking time bomb and who indirectly caused John Kramer years of suffering, was. Kiss my ass. We then see that Logan was the one who, with a sniper rifle, shot Edgar at the end of the opening chase scene. I feel the need to point out that the original bloodstain on that guy was down near the bottom of his rib cage and not near his heart, which is where a doctor said the bullet was lodged. And given that Logan was shooting at a downward trajectory, there is no way that bullet hit his heart. More importantly, though, part of Logan's method of fooling the police into believing Halloran was the Jigsaw copycat is that the bullet was lodged in Edgar's chest, and they could not remove it immediately, or it would kill him. Somehow Logan was such an elite shot that he managed to shoot Edgar in the perfect spot to make sure the bullet stayed in his body. Therefore, it could not be run through ballistics, which gave him the opportunity to show Halloran's partner a fake slug matching one from Halloran's gun when Edgar's body was pulled from John Kramer's coffin. If they had been able to remove the bullet originally, they would have seen that it did not come from Halloran's gun.
That isn't the only point of failure in this scheme of Logan's, though. Logan, after the customary Saw end-scene exposition / flashback dump, eventually kills Halloran in rather gruesome fashion with these laser knives, which slice his head into eight sections. He tells Halloran before he turns his head into an exotic, carbon-based death flower that Eleanor will be his alibi and that she will tell them about Halloran and the barn. There's just one tiny, little problem with this — Halloran's body. When the cops see that Halloran was very deliberately killed in a Jigsaw trap, he will no longer be a suspect, you dimwit.
Overall, what all this means is that Logan intentionally killed people in the exact same manner as Jigsaw did 10 years earlier, despite the fact that those bodies and this barn were never found. The people he kills in this movie are all related to Halloran's cases, and somehow he managed to find three people who escaped justice thanks to Halloran that all look similar to the victims of the original game. Why did he do any of this? In the context of this movie, he could have picked literally anyone deserving of punishment to mimic the deaths of that first game and no one in the police department would have known any better because all those bodies were never found. This entire plot device literally only exists in this script to fool the audience and pave the way for the final twist / reveal. That isn't how you write a movie! In any case, Logan apparently feels confident enough that he can carry on Jigsaw's legacy and, that's where it ends. Until Saw IX, which has already gotten a greenlight.
Final Thoughts: This movie has no reason to exist. It offers absolutely nothing new to the series, and it's only a Saw movie because the new Jigsaw decided to cover his tracks with a fake Jigsaw game. It's Saw in name only. They rehash plot devices that were stupid 15 years prior, let alone in 2017. Dr. Gordon is never mentioned. What happened to him? Hoffman we have to assume is dead, but he is never mentioned, either. The gore in this movie is honestly kind of pedestrian by Saw standards, though Halloran's head turns into a bloody CG Easter lily. The acting is mostly mediocre except for maybe three people, though I admit there are more good performances in this than the last three movies combined. They never did say what Logan did with Kramer's body, either, so I assume Saw IX will be him reanimating Jigsaw's corpse like he's playing "Junkenstein's Revenge" in Overwatch. The Saw timeline is so beyond butchered that it is impossible to try to figure out when anything actually happens. Yet, somehow, this movie managed to make it 500 times more convoluted. Do yourselves a favor: don't watch it. Even a great number of Saw fans think this one sucked, and these were the same people who defended the previous godawful entries in the franchise like they were horror masterpieces.
Final Word: Façade — This film did not need to be a Saw movie. The inclusion of Jigsaw was wholly unnecessary to Logan's ultimate goal of killing Halloran. It was a total façade to reel in Saw fans after a seven-year absence, and to pull a completely unearned swerve at the end.