Spiral: From the Book of Saw – Film Review

Spiral: From the Book of Saw

As a big fan of the Saw franchise, I was excited for Spiral and intrigued to see what new direction this instalment was going to take it in – but I came away pretty disappointed.

The movie follows troubled detective Ezekiel ‘Zeke’ Banks (Chris Rock) – who is disliked by the rest of the force for ratting out a dirty cop years before – and his newly assigned partner William (Max Minghella) as they investigate the death of one of their own team. His gruesome death seems to be the work of a copycat Jigsaw killer who is targeting the (many) corrupt members of the police force and picking them off one by one.

The Saw franchise was done to death (pun intended) and rinsed for all it was worth between 2004 and 2010 – when one was released every year – and 2017’s Jigsaw was essentially more of the same and didn’t do enough to kickstart the series once again, so I can appreciate that Rock, director Darren Lynn Bousman et al wanted to try something a little bit different and give it a new lease of life, throwing in some light comedy and some social commentary in addition to the traps and gore. And I would have been cool with that if they had nailed the execution.

I had issues with the storyline throughout the film, particularly with pacing and the use of too many flashbacks, but I still enjoyed myself – until the last 10 minutes when I felt completely let down and disappointed. The reveal of the new killer is so underwhelming. I waited for there to be another big shocking twist on top, convinced that couldn’t be all, but it was and it was so anti-climactic. Boy oh boy did they fail to stick the landing. It just felt so rushed and underdeveloped and nowhere near as exciting as a killer reveal should be. How could they make it so dull?!

Diehard fans of the Saw franchise may come away disappointed about the lack of classic Saw content. There are still some gory scenes, no doubt about that, but the amount of screen time given to watching people trying to escape the traps is considerably less. There have been so many disgusting, brutal and wince-inducing traps over the years that it must be difficult to come up with ones that are new and up to the same standard of grossness and only one sequence in Spiral made me cover my eyes because it was so stomach-churning. The rest were pretty average and I’ve forgotten about them already. And this is a random niggle, but I really missed hearing John Kramer’s voice on the tapes and TV messages. The new voice sounded weird and I didn’t like it and it made me realise how important his voice had been in those scenes.

I have always felt the Saw franchise had lost sight of its roots in favour of the headline-grabbing torture porn when the original Saw didn’t have too much of that so I’m glad that Spiral has reined it in and brought back the original cat-and-mouse detective storyline, but I think it ended up going too much the other way and being too much of a police procedural. The elements were there to make it a great film but the mystery just didn’t play out well enough, and I thought the commentary about the police and how they “shot first, ask questions later” was rather clumsy.

I wasn’t too sure about Rock leading a Saw movie when the film first began but my concerns dropped away about a third of the way into it. I thought he did a great job. I wish we had spent more time exploring his fraught relationship with his father Marcus (Samuel L. Jackson) and Jackson is generally in this nowhere near enough. I thought Marisa Nichols (Hermione Lodge from Riverdale!) was well cast as Captain Angie Garza while Minghella didn’t do it for me. I’m not convinced he was the best person for the job.

All in all, there were many aspects I liked about Spiral and I enjoyed it for the most part, but it doesn’t do anywhere near enough to justify its existence, and it’s not the strongest launchpad for potential sequels.

In cinemas now

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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