Saw (2004)

(In theaters, November 2004) It’s no accident if, at least three times during its duration, Saw starts throwing loud music, fast cuts and insane visuals at the viewer. It’s very impressive, but it just masquerades a fundamentally unlikely premise. You could certainly see it as yet another entry in the ever-more-extreme “Clever Serial Killer” mystery genre popularized by The Silence Of The Lambs. Here too, innocent characters find themselves at the mercy of a mastermind criminal who plans everything ahead of them. Chances of survival? Slim. Believability of the whole premise? Slight. But it’s all in the execution, and so Saw is built like a puzzle, with interlocking parts often glossed over when the film doesn’t want you to pay attention to plot holes. Amazingly enough, it works: The film is grim enough, different enough and fast enough that the conclusion has the time to take your breath away before you can go “Yeah, but…!” There is some dynamic film-making at work here, especially when the style overwhelms the substance. Telling you more about the story would be a disservice, but warning you that this is a seriously twisted film is probably fair enough. Here, it’s obvious that the screenwriter is the one who is manipulating both audience and characters like puppets. It all amounts to a decently-entertaining pitch-dark crime drama. It works like a nightmare and makes just about as much sense. Enjoy, if you can.

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