Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021). Film review of the thriller starring Chris Rock

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Thriller/suspense/film noir

2 stars film review fair passes the time

Film review by Claire Durrant of Spiral: The Book of Saw, which continues the series of Saw horror movies, starring Chris Rock and Max Minghella as detectives investigating copycat murders. Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman.

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Synopsis

Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock) and his new rookie partner Schenk (Max Minghella) investigate gruesome murders over the city that are reminiscent of the now deceased serial killer John ‘Jigsaw’ Kramer. Moreover, the killer has displayed a fascination for Detective Banks, so now Zeke finds himself involved in their deadly game.

Review, by @claire_d_air

The annoyingly persistent Saw franchise is known for its low budget films that become commercial successes. The franchise’s genius and influential marketing was advertising the Saw films as the Halloween event to attend* during the 2000s. Remorseless and renowned for centralising on gore and torture traps rather than intelligent writing (especially in the later installments); the Saw sequels have faced a diminishing fanbase and harsher criticisms.

*I snuck in every year.

We naively thought it was finally over, but once again we find ourselves trapped in the Saw universe…but this time with Chris Rock?! (Cue Hello Zepp music.) Yes, self-confessed Saw fan Chris Rock went to Lionsgate with a pitch to hopefully breathe new air into the rotting franchise. Thus Spiral: The Book of Saw, the ninth film in the franchise was born…and not in October! We even have Saw 2,3 and 4 director Darren Lynn Bousman back pulling the strings.

Unlike the previous horror and gore filled installments, Spiral doesn’t have your typical ‘game’ plot and the torture traps no longer play a central part to the film. Instead we are given a loose attempt of a character study on police officer Zeke (Chris Rock.) Zeke previously turned a crooked cop and since then has been repudiated by the other police in his precinct. The killer is also targeting dirty cops, so there becomes a substantial connection between the two. Whilst corrupt police officers as characters have always played an integral part to the franchise, you can’t deny the film’s obvious and timely message of police brutality.

Whilst I am a fan of potentially turning the franchise into a police procedural – CSI: Saw, if you will – the film’s biggest problem is that the writers have packed in every crime film cliché. If you’re a fan of the genre, you will know every beat to this film.

The killer’s identity is so painfully obvious, it took one line of dialogue in the first act for me to solve it. A later, sped-up editing choice in a pivotal scene confirmed my suspicion. For that reason, I was no longer invested in the film and just wanted to get to the end twist. Not even A-list actors Chris Rock and Samuel L Jackson could free me from my boredom.

Speaking of him, I still have to give Rock props for branching his acting skills. Despite one too many Rock mannerisms in speeches ranging from Forrest Gump to Pilates, Rock does not shy away from performing gut-wrenching emotional scenes. Unfortunately, the 2000’s style choice of over-editing undermines some of his heavier scenes. Still, Zeke is the most relatable, and fleshed out protagonist in the Saw franchise and you can’t deny that it is partly due to Rock’s charisma.

Samuel L Jackson is only in enough scenes to make you think he was only in it for an easy paycheck, but when are you not going to love Samuel L Jackson doing his thing?

I’m at a crossroads here, because whilst I didn’t enjoy this film, I do still hope people go watch it to support cinemas. As for the franchise? I think it’s time we finally slam the bathroom door shut. Game over.

Cast & crew

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman. 1hr 33mins/93mins. Lionsgate, Twisted Pictures. (18).

Producers: Mark Burg, Oren Koules.
Writers: Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger.
Camera: Jordan Oram.
Music: Charlie Clouser.
Sets: Anthony Cowley.

Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisol Nichols, Dan Petronijevic, Richard Zeppieri, Patrick McManus, Ali Johnson, Zoie Palmer, Dylan Roberts, K.C. Collins, Edie Inksetter.

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