Movie Review: Spiral: From the Book of Saw

If you have been staying awake at night wondering what a mash up of Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy’s character from BEVERLY HILLS COP) with David Fincher’s SE7EN might look like, you can finally get that sleep that you so obviously need. Thanks to comedian and SAW fan Chris Rock, SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW answers that burning “What if…?” question.

In SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW, which director Darren Lynn Bousman (SAW II, III and IV) said “is not the ninth film in the SAW franchise” even though the film’s working title was “SAW IX”, Rock (DOLEMITE IS MY NAME) stars as Det. Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks, an unconventional police detective in an unnamed large American city (but we Canadians can recognize Toronto when we see it on the big screen), who also happens to be the son of retired police captain Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson, SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME; GLASS; LIFE ITSELF; THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD; KONG: SKULL ISLAND; THE LEGEND OF TARZAN; THE HATEFUL EIGHT). After angering both current police captain Angie Garza (Marisol Nichols, TV’s RIVERDALE) and his colleagues with his latest showboating bust, Garza pairs Banks with rookie detective William Schenk (Max Minghella, THE SOCIAL NETWORK; TV’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE) to investigate the gruesome murder of one of their own. The murder has all the hallmarks of Jigsaw, with the police detective losing a body part before meeting his blood-splattered demise in a subway tunnel. But Jigsaw is dead, leading Banks to infer that there’s a copycat murderer running around town who is targeting Metro’s corrupt Finest. As more detectives fall into the killer’s web and ending up in more and more elaborate traps, the circle of possible suspects closes in around Banks, forcing him to make his own life-or-death choice.

I think I just made SPIRAL sound better than it is. I’ll give props to Rock for coming up with the idea to infuse some humour into this grizzly franchise and there are some enjoyable scenes, especially the opening one, which is highly reminiscent of the opening scene in RESERVOIR DOGS. For the most part, though, SPIRAL may just be the longest 93 minutes you will spend in the cinema this year. As my guest to our screening said, it’s as if the writers were trying to make a parody of SE7EN. Yes, it’s an A for effort and a C- for execution. And it’s not just the film’s slow pacing and derivative story that are at fault. If you’re still awake after 50 minutes into the story, it’s obvious who the copycat killer is. Banks, however, doesn’t figure it out until the film’s 85-minute mark, which begs the question of how good a detective he could possibly be. It’s either that or how dumb the film’s writers think the audience is.

If you’re into torture porn though, SPIRAL delivers. I’d like to think I have a pretty high tolerance for watching people on the screen getting their limbs torn off but even I had to look away more than once. SPIRAL is definitely not for the weak of stomach.

The film opened in North America and in other markets a few weeks ago and is doing fairly well at the box office even though most critics have not been kind. Audiences, however, are seemingly enjoying the banter between Rock and Jackson, and forgiving the predictable story.

SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW opens this Thursday in Hong Kong.

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