Spiral – From the Book of Saw: ACAB in the Saw-verse, apparently

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Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Studio: Lionsgate

MPAA Rating: R

The legacy of the Jigsaw killer returns as a new protégé emerges from the shadows to begin taking on corrupt cops!

Okay, so. Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Rock as father and son in a cop flick together? Awesome! It’s a Horror movie you say? Even better! But … The Saw films? Really? I have, wait for it, grave misgivings. But into the madness, we dive!

Meet Detective Zeke Banks (Rock). Living in the shadow of his rather notorious policeman father Marcus (Jackson), Zeke struggles with the cop corruption that seems to have invaded all corners of the police station he works at. To add to his already overloaded plate, Zeke just got a new partner, Detective William Schenk (Max Minghella), a justice-determined man who seems to still be a bit too starry-eyed about being a cop. And then of course a series of Jigsaw-like murders begin happening, and even though they were tainted beyond belief, all cops are brothers (siblings?), and Zeke and Schenk must do their duty and get to the bottom of it!

Let’s be real here, honestly, the Saw traps haven’t been anywhere near as meaningful or at least fun, with Kramer gone and Hoffman a dubious replacement, or other would-be successors. While it might indeed be at least amusing to watch very bad cops get their comeuppance via a Jigsaw-like trap, the traps for this Saw film especially are devoid of any joy, lessons learned or imparted, or even any shred of potential hope for escape. The original Jigsaw’s legacy was just that – he wanted to teach the evil and vile of the world how to claw, sometimes literally, their way back to an appreciation for life, their own, and perhaps someday, others as well. Like Hoffman before him, this new Jigsaw cop killer seems to delight in the irony of the death traps he builds for killing policemen, gleefully aware the entire time that there is no possible escape from any of them. Which makes it not a game at all, but an exercise in, le sigh, torture porn. And while it might make sense, after The Year That Wasn’t 2020, to kinda want to watch some bastard ass cops get tormented to death by a seriously sick mind, that’s a terrible twist to the legacy of the entire Saw franchise. I guess no one really can replace Tobin Bell as John Kramer; his cop deaths at least had style.

So many missed opportunities, like discarded traps plans sitting on a shelf gathering dust, blanket this installation of the Saw films. A chance for Rock to show off acting chops in something other than a comedic role devolves into an opening scene with an uncontrollable crack addict-like joke of an undercover role which could’ve been plucked right out of Rocks’ SNL days. Inevitably Jackson spouts his infamous “m-f-er” catch-phrase, but it’s always tongue-in-cheek and almost cringe-y like we fully expect Jackson to roll his eyes when he thinks the camera isn’t filming him. Another potential missed opportunity is ignoring the fact that Zeke and Marcus are the only main black Detectives in their entire nameless-city precinct apparently, Spiral instead focuses intently on proving the adage that, yes indeed, all cops are bastards. Even the video messages from this new copycat with the familiar, “I want to play a game” refrain, are almost laughable in their attempts to threaten because can’t nobody hold a candle to Tobin Bell’s unforgettable voice, especially not a standard computer deadpan voice-over. It’s just not happening.

A good deal of the film is done in Saw-style explanatory flashbacks and of course, there’s the inevitable cluex4 sum-up at the end of the movie, the reveal of the mastermind and their reasoning behind the execution of all these bad-apple cops. And while we the audience were being spoon-fed the idea that it was Marcus, bitter, foul-mouthed, maverick Detective Marcus Banks as this new Jigsaw copycat if you’re enough of a Saw fan to watch all 8 freaking previous films to get to this point, then you know damn well it’s not Marcus, motherf*cker.

They say Chris Rock is a huge fan of the Saw films, and broached Lionsgate and director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, III, IV) himself about doing another Saw movie, and even co-wrote some of the story, script, and produced plenty of this newest Saw installation, too.

If the legacy of the original Jigsaw is going to live on in these copycat killers, we could do a lot worse than an hour and a half of some Spiral – Saw torture-porn-revenge murders on some corrupt cops!