First Impression: Saw

Well, I could not for long resist the buzz about SAW, so I ran out to see it today. My impression of the ccritical reaction is that is has been somewhat polarized, wiht people either loving or hating the film, but I can't understand why that would be the case. There are lots of good things about the SAW and lots of bad things, too, but all of them are fairly obvious and should be clear to any viewer, so I can't understand why there should be extreme reactions to the movie both for and against, instead of a general, middle-of-the road reaction.

The basic premise is gripping: two guys wake up chained in a locked room where they have been stashed by a serial killer who thinks up methodical ways to get his victims to kill each other or die trying. And much of the action is intense, even terrifying.

But the problem is that the intense moments feel like a series of great sequences that someone thought up and then realized after the fact: Wait a minute -- we've got to figure out a way to string this stuff together and explain why the killer would be doing this stuff. All too obviously, the killer's actions are motivated by what the script needs to keep the story going. The result feels contrived and maniuplative in the extreme -- which is almost forgivable because the suspense works so well most of the time.

What's not forgivable is this: much of the plotting is often relentlessly stupid. In order to wratchet up the tension (and keep the serial killer alive and kicking to work harm), the film assembles a pathetic cast of mostly idiots who make wrong decisions at every turn; otherwise, the horrible predictament would be far too easily resolved.

I'll be back later to go into specifics. For now, let's just say that the police blow an obvious and easy opportunity to catch the killer about halfway through, because (among other things) they can't shoot straight -- not even with a  shotgun at point blank range.

Why anyone would sing hymns of praise to this movie is beyond me. Sure, there is much that is praiseworthy, but it's not nearly enough to blind any perceptive viewer to horrible flaws that ultimately undermine the film with an absolutely wretchedly foolish finale that destroys any last vestige of credibility.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.

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