November 2, 2006

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Saw III (R)
Jigsaw and his helper bunny torture a new group of sinners in Saw III, the second sequel to 2004’s blood-and-guts fest.

Let’s play a game where I make a bunch of judgments about how you live your life and then I subject you to some kind of vaguely ironic and/or fitting-to-your-crime torture and then you die horribly. No, you say, no, I don’t want to put my head in a reverse bear trap and slice open a guy’s stomach to atone for my cutting habit. OK, I say, then you must watch Saw III, I say. Hmmm, you say, where was that knife again?

I suppose Saw III is my punishment-fits-the-crime torture. I make fun of lousy movies, ergo, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) makes me watch Saw III over and over again until I poke my own eyes out with a Twizzler and stuff Sour Patch Kids in my ears. Personally, I think I would go for just trying to choke to death on a Milk Dudd. The sounds of my gagging would drown out the lousy acting of Shawnee Smith, who plays Jigsaw’s apprentice Amanda. She is even more disturbed than her mentor for ,while his needlessly elaborate death traps do indeed feature a way out, she stacks the deck against ever allowing her victims to escape. But Jigsaw, who is dying of the same brain cancer that has been killing him since at least Saw II, wants her to put aside thoughtless violence in favor of his more incentive-based forms of torture.

His test of her will comes during a test of another man’s ability to let go of the vengeance he feels toward the drunk driver who killed his son. And the test of a talented surgeon who muffles her feelings with anti-depressants and is captured to help keep Jigsaw alive.

Just in case you were wondering, yes, Saw III does simply recycle the themes of the previous two movies (recycling in a few cases some of the scenes). A slew of victims are, as before, trussed up in grimy snapping, crunching or decapitating devices and dispatched, with no added surprise of plot or dialogue or any hint of wit or smarts of any kind. And here, in no particular order, are some of the ways in which people die in Saw III: freezing, dismemberment, neck-cracking, ribcage cracking, chainsaw to the stomach and head trauma ending in the head being markedly reduced in mass. When a few of the people die from gunshots, it seems downright peaceful.

If “ewww cool” is your reaction to the previous list, well, have at it. I’m sure Saw III will hang out, infecting theaters with its presence for a good four weeks at least. The rest of us need not worry that we are missing some tense psychological thriller nor wonder if there is some greater sociological statement being made. We can choose not to check out that funny noise in the dark while dressed in our underwear and armed only with a flashlight. D

Rated R for all kinds of grisly, head-turning-into-pulp violence plus some nudity (violent nudity), scenes of torture, terror and a lot of rather pointed language (what would you say if you were about to be drowned in pig guts, “oh fudge”?). Saw III is an hour and 47 minutes long and is distributed by Lionsgate in wide release.

— Amy Diaz