Saw V picks up where Saw IV -- and in truth, Saw III -- left off: serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is dead, police detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has secretly taken over his reign of calculated killings (or "lessons") and seemingly every cop and FBI agent assigned to the case is six feet under. Every one, that is, except Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson), who manages early on to escape a Jigsaw trap with a bit of nifty do-it-yourself surgery.
Hoffman is treated as a hero for his ability to, um, not die, but his happy time is short-lived when he realizes that the loose end known as Strahm is still alive. He has right to be worried, because Strahm immediately eyes Hoffman suspiciously, wondering how he could've escaped a Jigsaw trap unscathed (as he did in Saw IV).
Strahm digs deeper into the now-closed Jigsaw case, gathering data that connects Hoffman to the killer. Each piece of evidence leads to flashbacks to Hoffman's first encounter with Jigsaw -- resulting from Hoffman staging a murder that he committed to look like the serial killer's -- further spackling up the holes in the previous films' scripts.
All the while, Hoffman has, at the postmortem behest of Jigsaw, ensnared five players in a new life-or-death game. The five people have ties to one another and are, in Jigsaw's eyes, morally corrupt. As the movie progresses, they make their way through a series of rooms, each one containing a test that winnows down their number by one.
The End Product
Saw V feels like a transitional film that serves merely as a bridge to get to (hopefully) a bigger, better finale. Really, it's time to move on. We know there's going to be a Saw VI, but that should be it for the series, which, with its ongoing police investigation plot and frequent recaps, is starting to feel like an episode of Law & Order: Jigsaw Victims Unit.
Although none of the sequels has been particularly strong, they've managed to mine an amazing amount of material from a seemingly limited storyline and have until now delivered truly impactful plot twists. Saw IV's ending provided probably the best twist since the original, with not only a "whodunit" revelation, but also a creative timeline shocker. Saw V, however, is utterly predictable with a climax that's manufactured into a ho-hum twist. There are no substantial revelations, just a lot of backstory about Hoffman and his relationship with Jigsaw. The plot with the five new captives seems perfunctory, something to throw in because a Saw movie needs grisly traps. A brief appearance by the killer's widow, Jill (Betsy Russell), promises more to come from her in the sequel, but for now, it's just a rote rehash of Saws past.
Granted, this doesn't mean that Saw V is a bad movie. Its simplified plot flows better than some of its jumpy, confusing predecessors. It does deliver the gory goods that fans are hoping for, although the highlight occurs in the opening five minutes. And, despite containing no real surprises, it remains a watchable diversion, assuming you've seen the previous movies and have a vested interest in the characters. (If you're starting the series by watching the fifth movie, then good luck understanding what's going on.) All in all, Saw V falls in line with the other three middling sequels -- just without the punch of a viable twist. Hopefully, Saw VI will end it all with a bang.
- Acting: C (Mandylor is stiff and Patterson a bit over-the-top -- granted, that could be due to the shoddy dialogue.)
- Direction: C (Hackl seems to have studied at the school of Darren Lynn Bousman.)
- Script: C- (Perfunctory with melodramatic lines and no real twists.)
- Gore/Effects: B (Plentiful, well-done gore -- as expected.)
- Overall: C (A predictable yet competent entry in an eroding franchise.)
Saw V is directed by David Hackl and is rated R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, language and brief nudity. Opening date: October 24, 2008.