Monday, June 12, 2006

SAW MOVIE REVIEW


CAST: CARY ELWES, LEIGH WHANNELL DANNY GLOVER, MONICA POTTER, KEN LEUNG
DIRECTOR: JAMES WAN
RATING: ***1/2
RUN TIME: 102 min.
GENRE: THRILLER, SERIAL KILLER, SLASHER, HORROR

Slasher movies are very much the double edged blades their characters so often carry. On one side they are one of the easiest genres to make movies in with most of the products finding a market in the naïve younger audiences. And they are so often the soft target for critics for their lack of creativity, predictability and most of all their stupidity. Movies in this genre spawn sequels and remakes like money out of a mint. This is one genre I usually avoid because more often than not it is just cheap thrills that are on offer.
I had heard a lot about SAW and about its rounds at various film festivals from Sundance to Toronto. So I decided to give it a shot. And believe me this is one of the best movies to be made in this genre. You got to give it credit for its creativity and freshness. There is no silly running around of teenagers. There are no teenage school girls screaming at the top of their voices. This is a solid effort to make a movie that is a mix of SEVEN, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1975).
SAW opens with two people, Dr. Laurence Gordon (Cary Elwes, ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS, KISS THE GIRLS, SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, HOT SHOTS) and Adam (Leigh Whannell), chained to pipes in one sick looking room. Their company is a bloody dead body, two pairs of saws, a tape, two audio cassettes and a handgun. They both are part of a sick game being played by a sociopath who is called “The Jigsaw Killer”. The Jigsaw Killer does not physically murder people. He puts his victims in situations where they have to choose between life and death. He plays games with his victims but his ultimate aim is to cure them of their disease, the disease of not being grateful enough for the blessings that life has bestowed upon them. As subjects of the game now, Dr. Gordon and Adam they both have to kill each other and whoever survives will go on to live. Moreover Dr. Gordon has to survive so that he could save what he values most in life, his wife and daughter. Detective David Tapp (Danny Glover, LETAHL WEAPON, PREDATOR 2) is a crazed detective who along with his partner Detective Steven Sing (Ken Leung) is heel bent upon solving the case of The Jigsaw Killer.
I tend to overlook this genre and SAW came as a solid piece of movie-making for me. I didn’t expect to get this level of film making from this genre which mostly has unimaginative sordid movies to offer. Most of the movies have plots that you can pick the end of in the first 15 minutes itself. But SAW boasts of a fantastic fractured screenplay that keeps you guessing till the very end. And no matter how many movies you have seen, the twist ending is going to shock you. The best thing about the movie is that it uses most of the grammar of movie making and still is absolutely till the very end. This is not a movie that is vying for major awards, this is a movie that is a pure escapist entertainer flick and is damn entertaining. I was more scared and terrified in the movie than most of the horror movies I have seen and that is something. Throughout the movie there is this impending danger that is just lurking around. The whole atmosphere of the movie is stark and gloomy just adding to the chill factor. One of the biggest strength of the movie is its actors. There aren’t any young one-expression wonders out here. Here is a bunch of solid actors who know exactly what their characters are and what they are supposed to do. SAW also has very well etched out characters that help in connecting with the characters. In fact I take great pleasure in writing that most of the thrill and horror is derived from the plight of the characters and the situations they are put into rather than gory and bloodshed. The interaction between Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell is just fantastic. This is where SAW scores over its numerous peers. Both the FINAL DESTINATION movies had stupid, violent scenes with bucketsful of blood, a great deal of limbs being chopped but that is just plain disgusting. That was a movie that makes for the lowest level of movie-making with absolute disregard for characters and just bloodshed to show on its grade card. Here you cringe for the character and that is some movie-making. I was just shocked when Dr. Gordon cuts one of his limbs in desperation not because of the violence in it but the sad desperate situation that he was put into.
This isn’t exactly the genre where you need to enlighten the audiences. It has a killer who seems to be incapable of committing mistakes. He is as strong as the director himself. He can’t put a foot wrong and has everything thought out. He just simply cannot be defeated. But whatever is shown is convincing. This has got to be the most brainy slasher movie of all time. It takes John Doe’s character out of SEVEN, gives him the intelligence of Hannibal Lecter, the strength of Jason and makes him its own. I was hooked into the movie for the whole of its running time and really felt for its characters. I was terrified during the movie and shocked at its ending for the very reason that I wasn’t expecting anything. What more do we want from a horror movie?
SAW is a fresh breath of air for all horror fans out there. It is by no means for the faint hearted. This is not a movie where you can take your girlfriends to. The acceptable level of violence now has been raised. This has got to be one of the most violent movies in recent times.
The biggest strength of the movie is James Wan. Because of him SAW never drags. Not for a single second are you let of the hook. He puts in fractured screenplay and still the movie never ever gets confusing. The plot sure has loopholes but it is dense enough to get convoluted. But that never happens hugely because of the kinetic direction of Wan. His style might be somewhat similar to David Fincher (SEVEN, FIGHT CLUB, PANIC ROOM) but that should be considered in a positive sense.
The screenplay by Leigh Whannell (Adam) is quite intelligent enough to know exactly what to reveal, when to reveal and how to reveal to keep you in the game. And I daresay, I didn’t feel cheated after the suspense was broken.
I would recommend SAW as one of the finest horror movies in recent years. If at all you intend to get scared please refrain from all those remakes of Korean movies masquerading as horror and instead watch this innovative piece of work. This is a smart, twisted movie that is well on its way to be a cult classic.

1 comment:

Rahul Soneji said...

One of the best Thriller/Horror movie I have seen! Acting was good but I think Cary Elwes(Dr. Gordon) did a bit of ham in some scenes.