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'Saw VI' Movie Review

About.com Rating 2 Star Rating


'Saw VI' movie poster.
© Lionsgate
The Saw series has become the It's a Wonderful Life of Halloween, with a new entry hitting theaters every October. Although each It's a Wonderful Life airing remains the same, however, each Saw sequel has struggled to maintain the quality of the first film. Can Saw VI right the ship?

The Plot

Continuing directly from Saw V, Saw VI picks up with the late Jigsaw's associate Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) framing the recently crushed Agent Strahm for the murders that Hoffman committed. He kidnaps two predatory lenders -- Simone (Tanedra Howard) and Eddie (Marty Moreau) -- for a deadly "game" typical of Jigsaw and leaves Strahm's fingerprints on the crime scene for the FBI to find.

And find them they do. Strahm's superior Erickson (Mark Rolston) heads the investigation into Strahm's involvement in the serial killings, but he throws a monkey wrench into Hoffman's plans: Strahm's partner Agent Perez (Athena Karkanis), who Hoffman thought had died from one of his traps, is very much alive and very much suspicious of Hoffman.

As Erickson and Perez delve into the case, they continue to find evidence that points away from Strahm and in the general direction of Hoffman. Anxious, Hoffman nevertheless sets up one more trap, targeting victims identified by John/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) before his death. The main target is William Easton (Peter Outerbridge), an insurance company executive responsible for accepting or rejecting coverage, based on a coldly calculating formula he created. Unfortunately for him, one of the people he turned down was terminal cancer patient John, who'd approached William for coverage for an experimental procedure.

Tobin Bell in 'Saw VI'.

Tobin Bell in 'Saw VI'.

Photo: Steve Wilkie © Lionsgate

Now, after death, John gives William a taste of his own medicine, making him run an hour-long gauntlet of games mimicking his profession of deciding people's fates -- except that the subjects this time are William's colleagues and friends, likewise stuck in deadly traps.

Along the way, we're privy to multiple flashbacks of John and his relationship with Hoffman, his protégé Amanda (Shawnee Smith) and his wife Jill (Betsy Russell), revealing more details about the endless plotting, backstabbing, double and triple-crossing that went on behind the scenes in the first five movies. And, of course, there's a twist. Or three.

The End Result

After being disappointed by the first couple of Saw sequels, I came up with a strategy that has helped me digest the series on more acceptable terms: I see the franchise as an ongoing TV crime drama (granted, with a lot more disembowelments that Law & Order), with a serial format in which the story continues from one film ("episode") to the next. Some episodes are better than others, and characters come and go, but the core plot chugs along, and I continue to watch because, well, I've invested so much time already, I might as well see it through.

Unfortunately, a sense of obligation to "see it through" is one of the main driving forces behind watching Saw VI to the end. Although the newly-introduced characters of William and his circle of trust have a more interesting and relevant role here than those introduced in Saw V, the continued insistence on digging into John and Hoffman's background hits a dry bed. We're bombarded with flashback after flashback, few of which reveal anything substantial that we don't already know -- at least, until the very end. Yes, we understand that John was a family man who believed that those who take life for granted need to experience near-death in order to appreciate life. And we understand that Hoffman, by contrast, is a hothead who's more interested in straightforward revenge. No need to beat us over the head with it.

Peter Outerbridge in 'Saw VI'.

Peter Outerbridge in 'Saw VI'.

Photo: Steve Wilkie © Lionsgate

It's starting to feel like writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, who took over the series in Saw IV and have supposedly plotted it out to eight movies, are desperately grasping for reasons to squeeze John, the face of the series, into scenes. However, in Saw VI, only his interactions with William serve much purpose.

Meanwhile, although we find out what's in the box bequeathed to her from John, the likable Jill's role is disappointingly limited. And Hoffman's storyline is just a rehash of the previous film, in which he desperately tries to avoid detection by the feds. The Simone thread goes absolutely nowhere, but with the series' tendency to stretch out plot points across multiple films, it could eventually pan out.

On the bright side, the last 10 minutes of the movie are a kinetic ball of revelations that, like a good TV season finale, pique our interest for more. Not only do we get the requisite twist in the William story arc, but we also get multiple developments (I hesitate to call them all "twists") in the overall ongoing story that clear up a few items from the previous films and promise an intriguing showdown in Saw VII.

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