review for Saw V on AllMovie

Saw V (2008)
by Jeremy Wheeler review

Hello, moviegoers. The producers at Lionsgate want to play a game with you. For the last four years, you've been subjected to torturous displays of horrific morality lessons, in hopes that you'd come back for more blood-soaked exploits of the serial killer Jigsaw. With each entry, the stakes have become higher and the plots more complex. So far you've seen dozens of devices of death, each containing its own virtuous lecture on the evils of humanity. There've been silly sequels (Saw II), overly serious ones (Part III), as well as the ludicrous follow-up that led up to this movie, Saw V. You now have a choice: you can continue this maddening journey or put this well-worn franchise out of its misery. Let it not be said that you weren't warned, for on the road ahead lies the biggest rip-off of them all -- a slapdash affair of dramatic drivel that even the most diehard fan will find lacking. Whether or not the bus had already hit the wall on the series long ago, there's little doubt that it's been left thoroughly in flames after this. The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

When last we saw Jigsaw (once again played by Tobin Bell), he was lying dead in a makeshift hospital gurney, the product of a buzz saw to the throat (back in Pt. III). Thanks to the wonderful world of flashbacks, he lived on in the fourth film and does so here again; though don't expect too many revelations about his life or his work from this outing. As we learned at the end of IV, Costas Mandylor -- the detective at the heart of the investigation since Part III -- had been secretly in league with Jigsaw the whole time. Actually, one isn't sure just when he actually started up with the cancerous killer with serious ethics on his brain, though Part V attempts to tell that story -- even if the time frame completely confuses the viewer at every turn. The plot weaves in and out of all of the sequels, with occasional flashbacks to vaguely remind you of how it all ties together. One thing about the Saw series is that one never exactly knows when and where things are taking place in regard to what's come before. Usually the film ends with a spinning camera and a character yelling up the sky as they piece together the movie for you -- except this time, the twist is the equivalent of the Titanic sinking. Of course, there are a few other characters in the flick, the most notable face being Dexter's Julie Benz, but they really make no difference to the plot and serve only to eat up a few juicy kills.

And speaking of gore, where's it at? Sure, there's a quick decapitation, some fingers being sliced up, and a guillotined torso, but compared to its precursors, Saw V doesn't come close. And really, that's what the audience is there for; say all you want about them appreciating the plot twists, but in the end, they're there for the nasty, cringe-worthy stuff. It's as if the writers (Feast's Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton) were so preoccupied with threading the story's needle that they forgot what kind of movie they were writing. Say what you will about the franchise -- good or bad -- but if the previous filmmakers have gotten anything right, it's that they delivered the goods to their audience. So does Part V cut it? Absolutely not. It's cheap, sloppy, and too jumbled up to know what it should be. With hanging plot threads all over and a sense that the series really has crawled into its own ass, one has to wonder how Lionsgate could come back with a new entry that continues to successfully question all that came before. What will they do next? Probably rip more people off. It's worked for them so far.