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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

[Review] ‘Spiral: From the Book of Saw’ Confidently Carves a New Path for the Franchise

Eight entries deep into the popular Saw franchise meant dizzying levels of history; time jumps, character reveals, mythology, deadly traps, and twists aplenty. To say the storytelling got a bit complicated to keep the momentum going strong long after its central mastermind, John “Jigsaw” Kramer (Tobin Bell), perished would be an understatement. For the ninth installment, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, director Darren Lynn Bousman returns to usher the series in an exciting new direction, one that evolves the franchise’s potential while delving into its underexplored relationship with cops.

Chris Rock stars as Detective Zeke Banks, a deeply cynical cop that’s amassed an impressive number of enemies during his tenure. He prefers to work alone, unwilling to trust the vast majority of his colleagues that turned on him. Zeke also can’t remove himself from the shadow of his father, Marcus (Samuel L. Jackson), an esteemed former leader of the precinct. Saddled with a rookie partner (Max Minghella) he doesn’t want, Zeke gets assigned a throwaway case that turns out to be something far more significant and grislier than anyone anticipated. A new Jigsaw-inspired copycat unleashes a new game of lethal justice, and this time their target is the police.

Straightaway, Spiral establishes a new tone and style that signifies this entry seeks to break free from the mold. An opening sequence game brings the deadly trap and a gruesome demise, but its game master looks and sounds very different. Jigsaw truly is long gone. Cut to our introduction to Zeke, who takes to his undercover persona a little too well, demonstrating a sense of humor along with a rebellious streak. It’s this off-the-book behavior that lands him his new partner, William, mandated by Captain Angie Garza (Marisol Nichols). It’s a complementary pairing, as William’s eager to please persona means he’s willing to put up with Zeke’s volatile nature more than most. That animosity gets amplified when Zeke becomes the main focal point for the new killer, who’s targeting the force’s most corrupt.

If it’s not already clear, Spiral eschews the familiar game setting of a Saw movie and goes all-in on a police procedural. Written by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger (Jigsaw), the narrative focuses on the driving mystery; who is slaying cops, and why is Zeke the receiver of the killer’s messages? Using Zeke as the audience proxy from the very beginning of an investigation means that time is spent establishing all of the moving parts to this puzzle, and it’s effectively engaging. The traps are there, but they’re not the focal point of this story. The killer remains ahead of the entire homicide team throughout, getting more and more personal with every slaying. It lends emotional stakes, as well as substance. The “why” is just as important as the “who,” if not more so. It raises interesting moral questions on corruption and complicity. Considering that cops have been an integral part of the franchise since its inception, often featuring hot-headed and dishonest detectives, this captivating and refreshing angle feels overdue in many ways.

Bousman offers a few wry winks to fans of the franchise but confidently carves out a new path for the series. Spiral exists within the same world but only uses Jigsaw’s winding history and connections as a loose inspiration for a wholly separate copycat. The pared-back simplicity allows its characters and mystery to shine while building a new foundation for new chapters to build upon. 

The latest installment bears more in common with Se7en than Saw, which might prove polarizing for longtime fans. The smaller scale means a smaller body count and also makes essential plot points easier to decipher ahead of reveals. Still, Rock provides compelling rooting interest in a caustic character with righteous anger, and the film has a distinct sense of humor that offsets some of its crime thriller grit. The traps bring the pain, but they take a backseat to Zeke’s journey. Spiral brings style and substance, with a few chuckles to balance the gore. For this standalone entry, Bousman subverts familiarity and reinvigorates the franchise by substantially expanding and evolving the Saw universe. Perhaps it’s Rock that surprises the most, who enters the Saw franchise and leads it with ease.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw releases in theaters on May 14.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3663452/review-spiral-from-the-book-of-saw-marks-surprising-evolution-franchise/

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