“Saw,” a marvel crafted by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, expanded into a series of seven films following its unexpected success. In contemporary times, we tend not to hold series that have reached the seventh installment in high regard. In fact, we often look down upon them, for after a certain point, series tend to stray indefinitely from their original foundations and morph into purely profit-driven endeavors. However, “Saw” was not burdened by the drawn-out artificiality that plagues many modern films. Between 2004 and 2010, we witnessed a new “Saw” film every year, and the story of these seven films was meticulously woven to culminate in a magnificent conclusion. With this finale, the series should have gracefully bowed out of the limelight forever. The 2017 release “Jigsaw” and the 2021 release “Spiral,” akin to copy-paste endeavors, should never have come into existence. “Saw X,” while attempting to return to the essence of pre-2010 “Saw,” as I noted in my Spiral review, is an indicator that the “Saw” concept has now become outdated.
Let’s briefly touch upon the plot. Throughout the series, John Kramer (Tobin Bell), who knows he is terminally ill due to a brain tumor, offers some individuals sessions of atonement for their sins in his unique style before his impending demise. He is somewhat reminiscent of a Brutalist Walter White. However, during this time, the tumor continues to inexorably take his life. By chance, Kramer becomes aware of an underground organization and travels to a secret facility in Mexico for surgery. Yet, post-surgery, he learns that everything was a ruse; the tumor remains in place. Naturally infuriated by the situation, Kramer decides to cleanse the team that stole his hope of recovery.
“Saw X” consists of two acts. The first act delves into Kramer’s desperate search for a solution and his hopeful journey toward an illegal remedy. If the film didn’t have “Saw” in its title, I would have assumed that the first act was one of those cheap B-movies shown on late-night cable TV. It possesses a quality reminiscent of the early 2000s, with subpar visuals, amateurish direction, and a budget-conscious narrative. To the extent that even the clichéd yellow hue, common in the Mexico segment of the film, is employed. The first act is simplistic and oddly dramatic, lacking the complexity one would expect from a “Saw” film.
In the film’s second act, Kramer adopts the identity of Jigsaw and grants those who deceived him another chance. At this point, the film reverts to the classic “Saw” formula, and Jigsaw’s industrial tortures commence. For a brief 15 minutes, we revisit the savage and raucous moments reminiscent of the early “Saw” films, but afterward, the film once again loses its momentum and strays far from the expected creativity. This film reveals a stark truth: Jigsaw has become a mere box office commodity. The last three films have completely deviated from their core, lost their creative essence, and become mere imitations. These recent films attempt to mimic the seven films that preceded them, but they fall short. It may be a cliché response, but the truth is evident: no soul is left.
“Jigsaw” was a forced attempt at reviving the legend. “Spiral,” on the other hand, wholly sidelined John Kramer’s philosophy, focusing solely on revenge. However, “Saw X,” despite its attempt to return to its roots, failed to bring together the details that made the series successful. First and foremost, the film is excessively slow-paced. The mathematics of the seven-film series were relatively straightforward. There would be an inner and an outer narrative. Inside, some individuals would struggle for their lives, while outside, others would race against time to find and rescue them. “Saw X,” however, is a film that takes place entirely inside and, for a reason I cannot fathom, constantly tries to shoehorn father-daughter dialogues between Amanda and John, with a sluggish tempo. In the Saw series, the action never ceased; it was a non-stop purification party. “Saw X,” on the other hand, has a narrative that feels largely meaningless, depicting John sipping tea between games.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Saw series was its unpredictability. No one knew who would suddenly appear or who might turn out to be John’s accomplice. “Saw X,” however, is an entirely predictable film. Its slow pace, unnecessary interludes, and predictability all stem from a lack of spirit. The seven-film series was an attempt to validate John’s philosophy. Every company has a profit motive, of course, but fundamentally, the series was the creation of John’s idealistic world. It proved what it set out to prove, and the series came to an end. “Saw X” doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The fact that the last two films were written by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger, who clearly didn’t understand John Kramer, makes it evident that continuing the series was driven by box-office concerns.
In summary, “Saw X” is a slow-paced film that tries to recapture the spirit of the seven-film series but falls short. While there are moments of compelling action, the film, when viewed as a whole, is far removed from John Kramer’s philosophy. Coupled with poor direction and cheap conversations, the film failed to deliver what I expected, at the very least. Nevertheless, “Saw X” is much closer to the original series compared to the last two films. However, we must accept a sad truth: Jigsaw has now become solely a box office concern. To the extent that the “eye-trap” game they’ve been marketing for a year is perhaps the most irrelevant aspect of the film. If you want to see Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith again, the cinemas are waiting for you. But if you choose not to, you won’t be missing out on much.
Cast & Crew
director: Kevin Greutert
writers: Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger
starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Synnøve Macody Lund, Steven Brand, Renata Vaca, Octavio Hinojosa, Paulette Hernandez
USA | 2023 | 118 MINUTES |