Back from either the dead or a seven-year sabbatical when he last appeared in the now-misleading Saw 3D: The Final Chapter in 2010, the latest reincarnation of Jigsaw is largely more of the same, with a little less gore. Jigsaw’s “healing” games — a cross between Tony Robbins making his audience walk on hot stones and Dr. Phil yelling at “patients” — is just as cutthroat as The Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, and then some.

What might make for a fun movie is a straight-forward drama from the point of view of John Kramer (Tobin Bell) about what the Jigsaw killer does to fabricate these devices and what he does with the rest of his time carrying out the kinds of things Matthew Barney can only dream about. We’ve gotten bits and pieces of that over the years, but never the kind of artist biopic that Jigsaw truly deserves, free from a plot that feels the need to double and triple down on temporality. Like Jigsaw’s torture, it’s something we simply have to endure and eventually we see the light, beg Jigsaw forgiveness, and become his disciple. Creepy, eh?


The quality output of the Saw films has been largely hit or miss. The latest from the Spierig brothers (whose previous films include the stylish vampire cyberpunk thriller Daybreakers) is more on the latter side as it plunges us into a nightmare with a few players. They include a young mother Anna (Laura Vandervoort), a cis gender white schlub Ryan (Paul Braunstein) and a motorcyclist Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles) who all have something to repent for. The limits they are pushed to in order to stay alive and the consequences therein are what they are. You know what to expect if you’ve seen one of the seven Saw movies.

Arriving on the scene ten years after the death of John Kramer, on the trail of Jigsaw 2.0, are two detectives (Callum Keith Rennie and Clé Bennett) and medical examiners Logan (Matt Passmore), a former “patient” of Jigsaw, and his co-worker, a Jigsaw fan girl Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson). They crack the mystery at the core of the last clue, while the film spends a good deal of time explaining what just happened, where it happened, and when it happened.


Jigsaw is hollow genre exercise from a series that once dared to dip its toe into the health care debate when Jigsaw’s claim was denied by cruel insurance executives looking at their bottom line. Power dynamics and an occasional allegorical plot where renegade justice is doled out by devotees who know what you did last summer, winter and fall, even if you’ve repressed it. Occasionally entertaining and cringe-inducing, it’s largely more of the same: a retread of previous Jigsaw/Saw outings that sets the series up for new revenue opportunities without slaying larger dragons. Hopefully Jigsaw, in his current iteration, like the Purge films, can evolve to reflect larger national and global nightmares.

After 9/11, allegedly, a man pulled up to Bruce Springsteen at a gas station and told him “Bruce, we need you now more than ever.” Springsteen responded with The Rising. Jigsaw, you’ve got a lot of work to do.

Jigsaw is now in wide release.

Grade: C

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