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Dull Blades

Movie Title: Saw VI (2009)
Spoilers: No

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Sensationally gory but no longer sensational, the sixth installment in the Saw series falls prey to the same central criticism of its last three worn-out additions—it is way past its prime with no nest egg. Though he should have bowed out with grace, Tobin Bell is back as super-genius serial killer John Kramer.

The movie does what the others do in tracing back to earlier time sequences to explain what goes on in the present. Kramer is dead, but he might as well not be. His genius has him reaching out beyond the grave, now in the inferior work of Detective Hoffman, who starts to feel the pressure as the F.B.I. draws closer and closer to the truth on the whole gamut of the (by now jumbled) execution of Jigsaw-style murders.

Saw VI is a better film than the previous one in terms of production quality—and that despite fewer uses of Jigsaw’s puppet mask and boar’s head, which essentially hollers “out of steam” from the highways and biways. The plot is much more relaxed because it has less ground to cover. No one else is introduced and the film has no immoderate wastes. All the story has to do is tie up lose ends, and it does. The cripplingly incoherent blow of flashback sequences is still there – this time worse than ever – waiting to confuse you at the end, or else have you wishing you could re-watch the last three minutes.

The characters – alive or dead – go somewhere. You learn more about Kramer, his wife Jill (Betsy Russell) and her role in the events, and detectives Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). What is done with the characters is to be proud of. Debuting director Kevin Greutert did perhaps as good a job as could be done with the material he had. What is not good is the continuation of those tiring “games,” which, by now, have many fewer spectators in the bleachers.

The best game in the world one can get tired of playing. Kramer’s games have gotten boring, and most of us are rooting for him to lose. The screaming, the chains, the squeaky contraptions, the blood, the cutting off of delicate chunks of flesh out of an incautious desire to live…they continue with an audience that is by now yawning, perhaps even annoyed. The torture scenes are longer and more intense, but there remains a very small payoff.

Saw VI is touched with a preachy, moralistically charged flavor. John Kramer isn’t just a man who truly understands what it means to be awakened to appreciate life. Now, he’s like a holy man, an executor of justice…or just an angry man who is really mad at what most of us are or have been mad at—insurance companies, one of which becomes a primary target of retribution. Whereas previous Saws were focused on making victims know and appreciate life at the behest of a perceived psychopath, this one is more concerned with vigilante justice.

If you’ve seen the previous five movies, then you are prepared to understand where this one intends to go. But where it goes is to a grievously bad ending, one that is poorly executed, wholly unfulfilling, and with barely a semblance of coherency before an abrupt ending.

The Saw series has been good to Tobin Bell. He’s been made a big name celebrity. Perhaps that got to his head. He was so excited that when the possibility of a sixth addition to the series presented itself, he couldn’t help but jump at the chance. The kibosh should have been put on these movies a number of Saws ago since all of them by now have become dull blades.

(JH)

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Grade: B- (3 stars)
Rated: R
Director: Kevin Greutert
Summary: Special Agent Strahm is dead, and Detective Hoffman has emerged as the unchallenged successor to Jigsaw's legacy.
Starring: Tobin Bell “Jigsaw / John Kramer,” Costas Mandylor “Mark Hoffman,” Mark Rolston “Dan Erickson,” Betsy Russell “Jill Tuck,” Shawnee Smith “Amanda Young,” Peter Outerbridge “William Easton,” Athena Karkanis “Agent Lindsey Perez” Samantha Lemole “Pamela Jenkins”
Genre: Crime / Horror / Mystery / Thriller
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