Spiral: From the Book of Saw
Dir. Darren Lynn Bousman
Detectives begin to go missing in a cat-and-mouse game that threatens to destroy the entire department.
The most recent installment of the Saw series, this time leading the story away from John Kramer and the Jigsaw killings in a movie that is based on the themes of the series. Darren Lynn Bousman returns to direct after the complete failure that was Saw 3D, and Spiral represents a nice return to form for the series. The film has its detractors, but it's still a brutal flick with lots of gory mayhem, and the addition of Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson helped to bring some star power to the franchise.
Rock plays a police detective named Zeke who is ostracized from the rest of his precinct because he snitched on a dirty cop, resulting in Zeke receiving a gunshot wound while other cops refused to answer his call for backup. He gets a new partner in the stereotypical "cop who works alone" trope, a rookie named Schenk (Max Minghella), and the two quickly are put on the case of a killer who is killing bad cops in increasingly insidious ways. Eventually, everyone is drawn into the killer's web, including Zeke's dad (Jackson) and the head of the division (Marisol Nichols).
Spiral leans in a bit more to the detective noir, with the entire plot being based around the precinct and the detectives within. The last act of the film maintains the franchise's signature color scheme, and the traps, while singularly focused and not ever involving more than one person, are just as brutal as fans of the series have come to expect. The score is similar and eerie, and I found myself genuinely surprised that Rock would lend his name to such a ruthless movie.
I don't get the hate for this one. It's not exactly like Saw, because it's not supposed to be. There's a reason this one isn't called Saw IX. It's inspired by the series and almost serves as a spinoff: John Kramer is a character in this world, but he's not the cause of the events that unfold. The tale of revenge at the heart of the film is every bit as inspired (and perhaps moreso) than those in the previous films. In fact, there's no convoluted bullshit in this film. it's straightforward, and though there's a twist, it doesn't come completely out of left field. It all fits within the narrative that has already been told, and there are no events that are hidden from the audience in order to pull a "gotcha" later.
Spiral isn't the best film in the series, but it's probably top four. It's gory, brutal, and generally well-written, with very few plotholes that need to be explained away. The story is concise, it never feels like it drags, and you don't need to be invested in a whole slew of characters who have little relevance to the final outcome. It's a good noir thriller, and there's more than enough blood to keep the fans happy. Any irritations that may come from not sticking completely to the original are nonsense, as the first spinoff film from the series sticks to its guns and make a new, original impact.
Who this movie is for: Saw fans, Film noir lovers, Clean cops
Bottom line: I really enjoyed this one, and it felt like a return to form for the series as a whole. Ironically, the first film that is dealt with as a spinoff of the main series is perhaps the most true to the original of any other film in the franchise. Gone are the extravagant twists with little to no foreshadowing, gone are the ridiculous, contrived convolutions that made some of the other films hard to watch. This is clean, straightforward, and it's not one you have to have seen the entire rest of the series to enjoy. The star power was nice and brought an extra, well-acted levity to the film. If you're a fan of the Saw series, this is a good film, and if you're not, it may be even better.