Saw II (2005)

*. I’ve said before that a great villain doesn’t need a lot of screen time or lines in the script to establish his presence.
*. That’s an axiom that might have applied to Saw as well, where the Jigsaw killer is rarely seen or heard but is nevertheless always felt to be there. What happens when the rule is broken is demonstrated in Saw II, where we get more Jigsaw (or John Kramer, played by Tobin Bell), and find out that he’s just not good company. He talks a lot, but nothing he says is new or interesting. After a few minutes listening to him I just wanted to move on to something else.
*. I should say that I’m definitely in a minority opinion here, at least among people who like Saw II. Bell’s performance received good reviews and was often held up as one of the film’s highlights. But what can I say? I call them as I see them.
*. I thought Saw was an excellent film. Saw II isn’t nearly as good, which is no surprise, but it’s not a disaster either.
*. It looks very much the same, which also shouldn’t come as a surprise since it had a lot of the same crew, including the same editor and cinematographer as the first film. They had more money to spend on gory effects, so these are more graphic. The story is pretty much the same, with everybody having to play Jigsaw’s complicated games.

*. The script isn’t bad, but it falls down in two respects. In the first place, the people trapped in the house are morons. They don’t even seem to pay any attention to the clues Jigsaw gives them, the first of which was pretty easy and might have solved everything right off the bat. The first thing I thought of was that the numbers were on the back of their heads. If they couldn’t figure that much out, how were they going to get the colours of the spectrum in the right order? And why did they show no interest at all in pursuing what it was they all had in common? To be sure this wouldn’t have helped them much, but they didn’t even consider it.
*. Alas, Donnie Wahlberg’s detective is no brighter, as he just lets Jigsaw pull his strings the whole movie without any plan of his own. With material like this, I wonder if Jigsaw ever considered dumbing his lethal IQ tests down. Way, way down.
*. The other thing about the script is that it doesn’t perform the same fragmented acrobatics as in the first film, where the pieces of the puzzle are all connected but rearranged in interesting ways. Everything here is pretty straightforward, and if you guess what Jigsaw is up to then there’s not much else to care about except to see what the next trap is going to be.
*. The traps. Let’s say something about them, since they are what the film is mainly about. The needle pit is good, but that was about it. The hand trap was so obvious you’d have to be blind not to get it. Jigsaw could have stuck a post-it note on the outside warning anyone about putting their hands in there and it would have been ignored. As for climbing into a furnace . . . well, you get the point. I said these guys were morons.
*. When is a let-down not a let-down? When it’s a sequel to a very good movie. I wasn’t expecting much from Saw II. I got what I expected.

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