`Saw': Quicker than you can say `slice and dice'

MovieReview

October 29, 2004|By Jay Boyar | Jay Boyar,THE ORLANDO SENTINEL

Just in time for Halloween comes Saw, an admirably efficient horror flick.

Think of all the times you've found yourself waiting impatiently while a bunch of teenage campers frolic incessantly and a slowpoke serial killer takes his time bumping them off.

Well, Saw gets right down to business.

You don't, for example, have to wait around for the villain to make his first move. As this deliciously grisly picture is beginning, he already seems to have gotten his hooks at least partway into three people.

One of these is Adam (Leigh Whannell), a young photographer who awakens to find himself chained to a rusty pipe in an underground bathroom. Across the room is Lawrence (Cary Elwes), a doctor who is also a captive.

These men are strangers, and neither has any idea where they are or why. All they know is that between them is a man lying face down, his head apparently blown apart by a powerful weapon.

This man holds a gun in one hand and a tape recorder in the other. Lawrence has a tape that says if he doesn't kill Adam within eight hours, they both will be killed, as will the doctor's wife and daughter.

The film is just getting started, and already you feel the plot thickening. Did I mention that both men have handsaws that won't cut through their chains but will, conveniently, cut through flesh and bone?

Yikes!

If the plot sounds a little too thick, or pat, don't worry. Director James Wan, who wrote the script with Whannell, captures the action with an edgy camera and that bracing efficiency.

There's such a sense of immediacy in this film that you don't have time to worry about being manipulated. You are, of course, just as Adam and Lawrence are being manipulated by a shadowy figure called Jigsaw.

But you accept all this because that's the kind of movie this is. Or, rather, you accept it if you're not faint of heart.

Not everyone, after all, can handle this level of gore.

There are plenty of ingenious plot twists to savor. But when the premise is as abstract as it is here, it's up to the cast to provide a sense of humanity.

Whannell and Elwes (Shadow of the Vampire) come through with intense performances that serve the story and spirit. As Adam and Lawrence, they convey the stop-and-go panic that a reasonable person would experience in such a situation.

Meanwhile, Danny Glover is terrific as an investigator who was once a near victim of Jigsaw and is obsessed with hunting him down. Monica Potter (Without Limits), as Lawrence's wife, adds a touch of sweetness that helps to give you a rooting interest in the story's outcome.

Neither a deep, psychological thriller nor a mindless slasher flick, this is one skillfully made, if admittedly superficial, creep-out.

If you like horror movies, don't let this one get away.

See Saw.

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Saw

Starring: Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover

Directed by: James Wan

Rated: R (grisly violence, language)

Released by: Lions Gate

Time: 100 minutes

Sun Score ***

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