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Review: 'Spiral: From The Book Of Saw' is a Pressure-Cooker Torture Test of Tolerance

by Greg Vellante
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday May 14, 2021
Max Minghella stars as Detective William in 'Spiral: From The Book Of Saw'
Max Minghella stars as Detective William in 'Spiral: From The Book Of Saw'  (Source:Brooke Palmer/Lionsgate)

"Spiral" (or "Spiral: From the Book of Saw" if you're feeling fancy) is a pressure-cooker torture test of tolerance. It's not because of the traps. Sure, those have their gruesome qualities, but it's nothing that hasn't been covered before in the eight previous installments of the "Saw" franchise, of which this spinoff looks to emulate and escalate. But there isn't much escalation happening here except in the very broad strokes of interesting ideas that never go anywhere; it's a paint-by-numbers plot where the screenwriters are constantly illustrating outside the lines with ambition, but the overall final product is a hot mess of missed targets and sloppy, half-baked construction.

The film follows a brazen cop named Zeke Banks (Chris Rock). We understand his brashness because he speaks very loudly and always looks pissed off and yells "FUCK YOU" in people's faces a lot, but we also know he's one of the "good ones" as the film takes very special care to spell out the fact that all the cops surrounding him on the force are crooked.

When he's thrown on a case with a rookie partner (Max Minghella) investigating an escalating series of cop killings that mimic the grisly moral exams of the now-deceased Jigsaw killer, Zeke is slowly drawn into a ho-hum trajectory of crime scene visits and on-the-nose clues (often told through glaringly obvious flashbacks), where Rock exhibits comically overdone grimaces of investigatory squinting to show he's really thinking hard about what's going on.

If only the film had thought as hard. With cliches and plot holes aplenty, this is a fairly standard cop drama masquerading as a "Saw" film. It never reaches the bar set by the early films of the franchise, but isn't as horrible as some of the later sequels, instead just settling for a meandering mediocrity that builds and builds to a lackluster twist, a staple the series is renowned for. But if you're paying attention, you can figure out the gimmick less than halfway through the running time, and it's not that impressive in the grand scheme of things.

Like I said though, there are interesting ideas abound. A copycat Jigsaw killer with an ACAB agenda? There's plenty of social commentary gold to mine here, but like "The Purge" franchise, "Spiral" never takes the risks it should and comes up short in communicating its outspoken concepts. Instead, the message is muted and inconsequential, getting lost in a hackneyed screenplay that clearly didn't think itself through from start to finish.

"Spiral: From the Book of Saw" is now playing in theaters.

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