3 out of 5 stars (average)
The Saw franchise is one of Hollywood’s strangest phenmena. From 2004-2011, audiences went in droves to see what devious devices the Jigsaw Killer would drop upon morally dubious degenerates. Ignoring an attempted revamp/continuation with 2017’s Jigsaw, Chris Rock has entered the kill ring with Spiral: From the Book of Saw, a standalone sequel and hopeful revitalization that’s still stuffed to the gills with gore but has a comprehensible story too.
Officer Zeke Banks (Chris Rock) has just been assigned rookie William Schenk (Max Minghella). When a cop on the force is found dead in a train tunnel, Zeke and William believe it could be copycat of the Jigsaw killer, a murderer who previously put people into horrendous traps for moral misdeeds. With time running out and officers dropping like flies, Zeke and William team up with Zeke’s ex-police father Marcus (Samuel L. Jackson) to catch the killer and determine their motive.
Add Chris Rock leading a Saw movie to the list of bad-sounding ideas that succeeded (The Sonic, Pikachu, and Dora movies also reside on that list). Unlike previous installments, Spiral is a standalone cop thriller with welcome moments of humor between the gory deaths. The increased budget and unexpectedly improved direction from series veteran Darren Lynn Bousman add increased tension and a more professional feel than previous installments, and Sam Jackson is clearly enjoying himself while taking the material seriously. Chris Rock is no dramatic powerhouse, but he does well here and shows potential for meatier dramatic roles in the future.
The finale delivers the film’s message with the subtlety of a drunken teenager, but it works within the story and leaves the door open for a sequel I’d love to see. Spiral: From the Book of Saw is a welcome change of pace for its endurable franchise that shows it has more games to play with us. See Spiral.
Rated R for Sequences of Grisly Bloody Violence and Torture, Pervasive Language, Some Sexual References and Brief Drug Use