Saw V

Saw V

Give the Saw franchise credit for sticking to its original vision,
as repugnant and hypocritical as it is. Collectively, Saw's torture-porn series has
grossed more than $500 million worldwide, yet its sequels still look like they
cost the catering budget of a studio horror film. David Hackl, the production
designer for Saw
, and IV, graduates from hurling
buckets of slime all over the film's grimy torture-dungeon sets to directing,
but at this point, the series pretty much writes and directs itself. The
driving force is inertia and commercial calculation, not inspiration.

Scott Patterson stars as a hard-charging FBI
agent who survives one of the nefarious traps set by the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin
Bell), then begins to investigate shadowy cop Costas Mandylor, a survivor of
the bloodshed that ended Saw
. For the audience's benefit,
Patterson considerately announces the implications of every new clue he picks
up, even when he's alone; apparently, he's unfamiliar with the concept of interior monologue. Patterson's
investigation leads to plenty of flashbacks involving Bell, who, as in Saw IV, logs plenty of screen time
even though he died two installments ago. Meanwhile, five hapless souls battle
to survive another of Bell's sadistic games of death.

Saw V devotes so much time and
energy to flashbacks and recycling footage from its predecessors that it
threatens to implode. The film unwisely skimps on the gore in favor of endless
scenes of Bell espousing his, um, unique philosophy of self improvement through
surviving horrible ordeals—he's like the world's grisliest life
coach—and the mystery plot grows less interesting with each passing
frame. The death-trap scenes, always the franchise's money shots, feel like
half-baked afterthoughts, and the plotting and deaths lack the scuzzy ingenuity
of the film's predecessors. Saw V jumps back and forth in time in ways that are
confusing to downright incoherent, but chronology isn't the only thing that's
hopelessly muddled in this punishingly arbitrary retread.

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