Dir. Kevin Greutert (2009)
An insurance company executive must play a twisted (yet suddenly understandable) game, while Agent Hoffman tries to close out the Jigsaw legacy.
After the slight disappointment of the previous two films, I can happily report that, at least for me, Saw VI was a return to disgusting form with one of the better stories and socially relevant premises of any of the previous films. Nestled right between the financial collapse of 2008 and the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the film deals with rich assholes who are more than willing to sacrifice the lives of those they consider beneath them if it means turning a quick buck. While the previous films in the Saw franchise spoke to little snippets of societal inequalities and vengeance for the downtrodden, VI is wholly devoted to seeing those most deserving get their comeuppances.
Agent Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is back at it again, of course, and while his story is still focused upon through much of the film, it is the story of insurance executive William (Peter Outerbridge) that takes center stage. As with pretty much all insurance companies at this point in history, William's does its damnedest to disqualify every person possible from receiving health benefits. Among those people are Harold (George Newbern in an excellent cameo), whose cancer claim is denied because of his omittance of a prior dental procedure that the company deems a preexisting condition, and, unfortunately for William, John Kramer, who is denied the ability to seek out an experimental treatment because it will cancel his policy altogether.
Yes, that's right, young'uns who were never aware of the horrifically awful way insurance used to scam their customers (despite the fact that many still do, albeit to a lesser extent. Thanks Obama.): even if you paid for your own treatment out of pocket and even if your condition was covered by your insurance, the company could still fuck you over just to save money on paying for your expensive health concerns. Despite skyrocketing premiums, the fine print of your policy would likely say that anything that could have been present before you signed up for insurance is your problem, not your insurance company's. That if you didn't follow their treatment plan, regardless of what your doctor prescribed, they would not only refuse to pay, they'd cancel your coverage completely and refuse to pay for anything in the future as well.
Just putting this up here for no reason whatsoever.
It's easy to look back on the events of this film and feel like it's a bit overblown, or that it's an attempt to create a Snidely Whiplash villain out of insurance companies. Nope! That's actually how they worked! Literally every day! Thousands of everyday Americans went bankrupt, with medical debt that was passed down to their estates, pushing generations of American into poverty simply because they got sick when they already paid a fuckton of money for health insurance. The medical debt of Americans came out to roughly 150 BILLION dollars in 2009, the year this film was made. Isn't that great! Doesn't that just make you want to inject your nearest healthcare billionaire with hydrofluoric acid?
But anyway... back to the film. Saw VI is easily my second favorite Saw film. It hits the triple threat of deserving victims, gnarly-as-hell games, and some decent backstory to help fill in the gaps from the previous films. Gone is Saw V's constant, convoluted filler, with this film containing just enough backstory to complete the picture. The focus is exactly where Saw films' focus should be: on John Kramer and his attempt to rid the world of evil by teaching those who would pursue evil a lesson. While the franchise often offered more than this, it's this minimum standard that must be met, and Saw VI meets it in spades.
Thankfully, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, a lot of the problems this film addresses are no longer the harbingers of late-stage capitalism that they used to be. Granted, insurance companies are still largely the scum of the Earth. Affordability is much better, though, and there are way fewer people without insurance compared to the numbers from 2009. Nowadays, if Jigsaw wanted to push the same agenda... hell, he'd probably still go after insurance companies, as long as he could claim a few bankers and politicians along with them. Now that's a Saw sequel worth making.
Who this movie is for: Saw fans, Trap enthusiasts, People who hate Obamacare but love the Affordable Care Act
Bottom line: Look, Saw VI is not the best Saw film. It is, however, awesome, and I refuse to hear any different. The gore is gnarly as fuck, the cinematography and plot return back to the franchise's roots, and the social message that is teased in a lot of the other films is delivered full force in this one. Despite a little bit of a convoluted message and an overreliance on blood and guts, this is exactly the direction the series should've headed after so many complicated detours. It's also a (relatively) standalone film, one that you could watch at any point in the series and still get enjoyment from. My second favorite film of the series, or at least 2b with Saw II.