Saw III (2006)

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Review #291 of 365
Film: Saw III (2006) [R] 107 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $10.00
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 29 October 2006
Time: 3:15 p.m.
Film's Official Website
DVD Release Date: unscheduled

Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II)
Screenplay by: Leigh Whannell (Saw II)
Story by: James Wan (Saw) and Leigh Whannell (Saw II)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Tobin Bell (Saw II) • Shawnee Smith (The Island) • Angus Macfadyen (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) • Bahar Soomekh (Mission: Impossible III)
Soundtrack: Download now from Ghost Machine - Saw III (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect from Saw III. I never saw (no pun intended) Saw I or Saw II. I couldn't believe it when I heard there would be a Saw III. From what I had gathered from previews, posters, and the parody in Scary Movie IV, I couldn't imagine wanting to see Saw III. Thoughts of Hostel kept popping into my mind. Regardless, in order to provide fresh reviews as often as possible, and with a release week that included several films I've already seen, I pretty much had to bite the bullet for the fans and see Saw III.

"…this 'franchise' still has teeth ."

Saw III is, by far, one of the most grisly films I've ever witnessed, a fact that will surprise few, I suppose. In my review of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, I wrote a bit about my feelings toward these "grisly, bloody, murderous rampage" movies. I'm not a huge fan. Generally, they don't serve much of a purpose, except perhaps to desensitize people to torture and extreme, horrific violence and death, if you consider that a purpose. Well, such is not the case, I am surprised to find myself admitting, for the film Saw III. Again, I cannot speak to the precursor films, and if they too might be a light of divergence from the dark, sinister, waste land of these other films. Saw III, does have a purpose. It delivers messages on many levels. I would argue there were a 1000 other ways to bring out these points without the degree of sadistic butchery and brutal torture used by the Saw trilogy mastermind Jigsaw a.k.a. John played meticulously by Tobin Bell. Nonetheless, Saw III does stand quite a bit above the other films of this genre released this year including Hostel, Wolf Creek, The Hills Have Eyes, and TCM: The Beginning. It does so because there is a very sophisticated plot involved with psychological twists and turns and surprises rather than just plot contrived to get the story from spot where Leatherface chainsaws a guy in half to the part where Leatherface chainsaws a girl in half. In this case, we have a close-to-dying villain, Jigsaw/John, who has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and his apprentice Amanda (Shawnee Smith) working together on one last 'game' for John. The game is elaborately conceived around the vehicular homicide of Jeff Reinhart's (Angus Macfadyen) son. I won't give too much away, just that Jigsaw and Amanda have created a series of 'tests' where, at each step along the way, Jeff will have to make a choice between killing someone in the chain of responsibility for his son's death and the killer's 'light' sentencing or forgiving him/her and moving on toward the final test where he will get to face, at last, the driver of the car. These tests all involve the elaborate traps and torture devices for which Jigsaw has become famous; and, of course, he has a time limit of just two hours. Meanwhile, as he is close to death, he and Amanda have taken on a couple of other plans. Amanda is being trained to be the successor to John's 'legacy', so she has to catch a few people and set them up a test.

"…the film has two incredibly satisfying…with jigsaw puzzle pieces falling nicely into place."

Unfortunately for John's vision, Amanda has a nasty habit of making escape impossible, thereby turning John's tests into doomsday devices with no escape. Also, John's health is deteriorating rapidly. So, he gets Amanda to kidnap super doc Lynn Denlon from her hospital locker room (Bahar Soomekh), fit her with a nasty explosive collar that will detonate if she gets to far from his bedside or if his heart rater flat lines. The rules of Dr. Denlon's game are simple—all she has to do is keep John alive until after Jeff completes his course. In a very interesting twist of fate, Dr. Denlon will need to perform a radical procedure on John that will involve a power drill and small radial saw. When she performs this operation, be prepared for some curious feelings as the wave of irony rip through. Flashback scenes fill in some gaps of previous films, I'm told, but had less meaning to a rookie. We do learn that Amanda has set up some games, but that she fails to follow John's tenet that the test subject must have a legitimate chance for escape. One of Amanda's tests involved hooking a guy to chains pierce through his body in many spots next to a bomb with a minute thirty seconds to get free before it goes off. Of course, it wouldn't matter if he gets free because she welded the door shut. While Jigsaw John is an evil and misguided villain, he has one tiny redeeming quality—he does try to teach people something. In the case of Jeff, his entire series of tests are designed to help him get past the rage and desire for vengeance that have consumed him since his son's tragic demise. He clings to past memories to the definite detriment of his younger daughter even reprimanding her harshly for taking a stuffed animal from his son's bedroom shrine. There is no excuse for his horrifying methods, and certainly, in real life, the ends he achieves or tries to achieve do not justify the means. They do, however, elevate this film above the usual run-of-the-mill members of this genre. I did not enjoy any of the elaborate traps or tests. Their 'genius' was lost on me. I did, however, discover the film has two incredibly satisfying twists at the end that I never saw coming with jigsaw puzzle pieces falling nicely into place. So, as far as the story went, I'd have to give writer, Leigh Whannell, pretty good marks. He proves he's no hack. As for the needlessly grisly methods used to achieve these, however, I'd have say, "Come on guys, if you can come up with this, you could have done it without the torture and horrific devices."

"…writer, Leigh Whannell…proves he's no hack…Darren Lynn Bousman…demonstrated taught blade command of the pace and continuity"

The principle actors all do excellent jobs with their roles, in fact, vastly surpassing that of any other film of this genre this year. Take a bow Saw director, Darren Lynn Bousman, for you demonstrated taught blade command of the pace and continuity. Probably the one thing that will frustrate the legions of barely-coping Saw fans more than anything, however, is the ending. I choose not to spoil it here, I'll just say, "not to fret Saw fans, either there will be a Saw IV, or you people are going to spend the next 20 years posting theories on message boards as to the clues that might let one presume an ending after the ending." I stayed until after the credits just in case there was something more—there wasn't. Rumor has it that the film was scripted and filmed very quickly between May and June of this year. Given the elaborate nature of the plot, I'd call that sort of a triumph. Meanwhile, early box office numbers are showing this film to be a smash success earning more than triple it's cost in the first weekend—proving this 'franchise' still has teeth! Yikes, I apologize for any bad Saw puns I've made.

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Cast Members
Tobin BellShawnee SmithAngus Macfadyen
Bahar Soomekh
Darren Lynn Bousman
Leigh Whannell

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Saw III (2006) Review-lite [150-word cap]
One of the most grisly films ever made, Saw III, nonetheless stands above its genre "grisly, bloody, murderous rampage movies" peers, by carving a plot that's smart with satisfying twists revealed and jigsaw puzzle pieces falling nicely into place. This time, mastermind villain, Jigsaw/John (Tobin Bell) is near death. He and his apprentice, Amanda (Shawnee Smith) have masterminded one final game for a test subject, Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) that will allow him salvation from his rage for vengeance toward the driver who killed his son. Meanwhile, kidnapped doctor Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) must keep John alive or fall victim to a collar Amanda has designed to keep her nearby. Director, Darren Lynn Bousman, demonstrates taught command of the pace and continuity. The ending will frustrate Saw fans and either indicates a Saw IV will be on the way, or will serve as fodder for message posts for years to come.

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