Once cutting edge, ‘Saw’ has just gotten duller

Adams is a freelance writer.

Labyrinthine and torturous, the “Saw” series increasingly has come to resemble the baroque booby traps laid by its serial-killing mastermind, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell). In the fifth installment, the cops investigating the case have all been bumped off, with the exception of Scott Patterson’s dogged FBI agent and Costas Mandylor’s lone detective.

The latter, as those who’ve been following along will recall, is now the sole bearer of Jigsaw’s grisly legacy, although the fact that Bell’s character had his throat slashed at the end of Part 3 hasn’t prevented him from showing up in the sequels.

He might be dead but he apparently left behind enough machinery to extend the franchise ad infinitum.


The virtues of the individual films are almost beside the point, since it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to pick up the thread at this late date, but “Saw V” is a particularly dull and discombobulated affair, shot and acted with all the flair of a basic-cable procedural. Patterson and Mandylor are so wooden that their cat-and-mouse game has all the excitement of watching dust bunnies swirl in an air current.

Even if you don’t enjoy watching hapless innocents die in inventively gruesome ways, it’s a relief when the movie cuts away to the five people trapped in a series of “tests,” which inevitably involve mutilating themselves (or others) to stay alive.

It’s not a good sign when watching someone stick their hand into a table saw is easier than listening to them recite dialogue.