Saw 3-D

Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate

Review in a Hurry: In its least self-serious installment yet, the Saw franchise literally throws its over-the-top gore in our faces, along with an unusual amount of self-parody. The central storyline is starting to feel really played out, but there's a palpable sense of actual fun to this alleged final film.

The Bigger Picture: Though the Saw movies have been tying themselves in knots trying to continue the saga of a central character who died at the end of part III, you know they've just about hit rope's end in this one when our favorite cancer-stricken, psychotic engineer John "Jigsaw" Kramer (Tobin Bell) gets exactly one good scene (not counting the ubiquitous voice-overs with that puppet), and returning fan-favorite Cary Elwes is essentially reduced to a cameo.

There just isn't that much more to tell about characters whose every major misdeed has been catalogued in six movies already.

Yes, Jigsaw's widow Jill (Betsy Russell) and psychotic protégée Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) are still in a cat-and-mouse battle of wits, abetted in this instance by a humorously inept cop named Gibson (Final Destination's Chad Donella). But the bulk of the action this time has very little to do with the recurring characters, and focuses on a sleazy self-help guru (Sean Patrick Flanery) who has built a career based on lying about escaping from a Jigsaw trap, and now finds himself staring down the real thing.

As Jigsaw himself is something of a twisted self-help guru, there's room for mockery here, and for once, the film truly goes for it, making it clear that indeed, any talk about improving one's life by way of limb-severing death traps is absurd. Director Kevin Greutert also seems to have finally, deliberately embraced the detractors' "torture porn" label, as the 3-D delivers what can only be called considered money shots.

One particularly gruesome death proves to be utterly gratuitous when it's revealed to be a dream with no impact on the plot whatsoever. After the solemnity of the previous sequels, this makes for an interesting change.

Saw 3D is a fair enough victory lap, and it's unreasonable to think that such a profitable franchise won't be revisited at some point. But yeah, it's time to put this particular continuity to bed.

The 180–a Second Opinion: While the ending is basically satisfactory this time, it does, alas, leave enough wiggle room for yet another sequel.

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