It’s hard to review this film, considering the backstory of how two young Aussies were fortunate enough to take the fast lane to Hollywood. Before I pass any judgement I should point out that I am extremely jealous of Leigh Whannell and James Wan, so anything critical I have to say may come from spite rather than intellectual critique.

Cary ElwesWhilst there may have been a lot of luck concerning the filmmakers’ rise to fame, there’s no denying that this is a solid story. Full of twists and turns, Saw has a great premise. I’m just not too sure that I loved the execution.

A lot has been done to jazz up the idea of ‘two people stuck in a room’. I got the feeling that a lot of the backstory and flashbacks were added in later drafts, when they realised they weren’t simply making a local low-budget number. I didn’t enjoy much of the frenetic, hyperactive interludes in Saw. I think I would have enjoyed it more had it been static and minimalist. There were a couple of moments that were annoyingly disorienting, similar to some of the scenes in House Of 1000 Corpses.

Saw is sick and twisted. Se7en (a film always referenced when a new thriller comes out) dealt with horrible actions, but they were all alluded to in retrospect. Saw on the other hand is gleefully sadistic and lets us see the atrocities take place. Fincher’s film was a mature and calculated piece, whilst Saw tends towards schlock for the masses.

SawWhannell and Wan have followed some of the important rules for ‘making it big in Hollywood’. Like Tarantino, they have the film set in one room, and like Tarantino, they got their hands on great actors that no longer get the roles they deserve (Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, et. al.). Leigh Wannell does a great job (and with a great accent to boot), and at times seems more comfortable than Elwes.

My tone may sound detached and critical, but I reckon I enjoyed this film a lot more than some of the other filmgoers. I got the feeling that some of the laughs came at inappropriate times during Saw, and the filmmakers mightn’t have been too happy about that.

I would like to say that they get bonus points for including a Front Line Assembly song in the film, but unfortunately they chose one of the few bad songs out of almost two decades of great work.

This film did have me in suspense on a couple of occasions, and there was some nice surprises. I just feel that the it could have done without the extra bells and whistles. The main reason I wasn’t completely satisfied with Saw was because I wanted to be completely satisfied. I really did.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 3rd December 2004
Hoopla Factor: 3.0 stars

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