"Saw II" finds our old pal Jigsaw still playing his diabolical games -- kidnapping people he deems unappreciative of their lives, and torturing them into self-actualization. Or death. Whichever comes first.
If you got a buzz from the first "Saw," with its insanely elaborate deathtraps and clockwork structure, you'll probably love this instant sequel, co-written by original screenwriter Leigh Wannell and featuring two minor characters from the previous film -- ineffectual cop Dina Meyer and skittish Jigsaw survivor Shawnee Smith -- in larger roles.
And Tobin Bell gets much more face time as Jigsaw himself, playing his latest game with a homicide detective (Donnie Wahlberg) whose teenage son has got himself ensnared in the maniac's most elaborate puzzle yet -- locked with several others in a booby-trapped house, dosed with a lethal nerve toxin, and given two hours to find to the antidote, and their freedom.
Director and co-writer Darren Lynn Bousman clearly aims to add a new dimension to the Saw template by folding in the assorted-strangers device of Cube, but the chaos that comes from half a dozen people running around yelling at one another and working at cross purposes pushes the movie's labyrinthine plot to increasingly implausible extremes: For "Saw II" to work, you have to accept that Jigsaw knows precisely what every single one of his players will do at every single turn, and by the end of the movie it's a little too hard to suspend that much disbelief.
Now, if you just want to watch a bunch of people die in variously graphic ways, credibly or otherwise, "Saw II" certainly delivers the goods. But if you want it all to mean something, well, this isn't that movie.
Lions Gate appears to be reprising its "Saw" DVD strategy for the sequel: The current enhanced-widescreen disc arrives in the same translucent packaging as the first "Saw" DVD, and includes audio commentary from director Bousman and co-stars Wahlberg and Beverley Mitchell, storyboard comparisons for four scenes and a nicely organized gallery of production art. (In Canada, the film is distributed by Maple Pictures.)
Strangely, the disc doesn't offer a making-of documentary in the strictest sense -- just a collection of brief featurettes that explore the movie's various death-traps and creepy props. It seems like an odd production decision, but what it probably signifies is a special edition somewhere down the line.
STUDIO: Lions Gate Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: Available now
TIME: 92 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: Spanish subtitles; audio commentary; production featurettes; still galleries.
INTERNET SITE: www.saw2movie.com
The grizzly doll of "Saw II."