Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) is a divorced, deskbound cop with a troubled past and a rebellious teenage son Daniel (Erik Knudson). When his colleagues apprehend the psychotic mastermind known as "Jigsaw" (Tobin Bell) in an abandoned warehouse, Eric reluctantly arrives on the scene only to find himself caught up in Jigsaw's latest game: Daniel has been kidnapped and imprisoned with a group of strangers in a house filled with deadly traps. As he watches the ensuing horrors unfold on a row of video monitors, Eric desperately questions Jigsaw in the hope of learning the whereabouts of his son.
Review by Jake Wilson:
Saw II is pure schlock, which was clearly the intention: grimy grainy photography, flashbacks that strike like lightning bolts, plot holes galore and no jokes to speak of. Human interest is added by a troubled father-son relationship, the single biggest cliché in modern Hollywood cinema; as a psycho engaged in a battle of wits with a seedy police detective, Tobin Bell manages to keep a straight face while delivering lines like "Oh yes...there will be blood."
Most of the zest goes into Jigsaw's gruesome traps: a gun rigged to fire through a keyhole isn't original, but the pit filled with syringes would have made Edgar Allan Poe proud. As a trap for viewers in its own right, Saw II is less ingenious than it wants to be. Like the killer in Se7en, Jigsaw specialises in making the punishment fit the crime, but this concept isn't sustained and the bickering between his victims soon grows dull. Still, the film maintains its grip by forcing the audience to keep asking one of the basic questions of suspense: what's behind the next door?
At best, this play on fear of the unknown gives rise to some of the dread I associate with virtual reality thrillers - essentially, Jigsaw plunges his victims into an alternate world where he plays God and the rules might change at any moment. Indeed, part of the climax relies on breaking one of the unwritten laws of film storytelling, though it's not less effective on that account.
Saw II went straight to the top of the box office charts in America and looks set to do the same here, which may say something about the current climate or may be simply a matter of fashion. Having grown bored with smart-arse self-referential horror films and then with the creepy children crossbred from Asian cinema and The Sixth Sense, audiences are understandably looking for something more hardcore. Bloodlust springs eternal, in any case. I can only speculate about what the upcoming rip-offs of this franchise may be called. Scalpel? Lit Cigarettes? Hammer and Tongs?
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SAW II (MA)
CAST: Donnie Wahlberg, Shawnee Smith, Tobin Bell, Franky G, Glenn Plummer, Dina Meyer, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Erik Knudsen
PRODUCER: Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman, Oren Koules
DIRECTOR: Darren Lynn Bousman
SCRIPT: Darren Lynn Bousman, Leigh Whannell
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David A. Armstrong
EDITOR: Kevin Greutert
MUSIC: Charlie Clouser
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Hackl
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 17, 2005