Blu-Ray Review: ‘Saw VI’ Improves the Franchise, But Still Weak

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CHICAGO – “Saw VI” opens with two people in a race to cut off as much flesh as possible before time runs out. It’s gross. It’s nauseating. It’s exactly what fans of this franchise have been looking for and what its critics have derided. The twist is that these victims are a part of the current financial crisis, making their torture something audiences, many of which have been impacted through loss of income, would more likely cathartically enjoy. Blu-Ray Rating: 2.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 2.0/5.0

Of course, despite the ripped-from-the-headlines twist, it’s the same old “Saw”. Almost. There are a few more interesting plot developments and a more accomplished pace that makes this film superior to at least the last three installments in the franchise, but considering those were all in the running for worst film of their individual years, that’s really not saying much. Pulled out of a franchise tailspin? I guess, but still crashing and burning.

Saw VI was released on Blu-ray and DVD
Saw VI was released on Blu-ray and DVD
Photo credit: Lionsgate Home Video

Moving the action of “Saw” out of the dark warehouses of the last three films to the world of high finance and law was actually a clever idea. Let’s be honest - The Jigsaw Killer had become a little random and many of his recent victims not only didn’t deserve their demise (as if anyone does) but were being offed in increasingly dull ways. The best thing about “Saw VI” is that it at least returns a loose sense of vigilante justice to the piece (although one guy gets screwed because he smoked too much which seems a little harsh).

Saw VI was released on Blu-ray and DVD
Saw VI was released on Blu-ray and DVD
Photo credit: Lionsgate Home Video

What’s somewhat refreshing is that this “Saw” seems to recognize a bit that the Jigsaw’s lunatic brand of justice has gone well past any sense of reason. The woman taught a lesson in the opening scene by cutting off her own arm is asked if she’s learned a lesson and responds, “Look at my arm! What am I supposed to learn from this?!?!” Even Jigsaw’s victims are starting to see through his act.

Once again, it’s all just set-up for the “rat in a maze” structure we’ve come to know and love, which starts when a scumbag, a man who has made an art of denying health insurance claims, is attached to four bombs and told he will face four tests. Of course, all four will feature ridiculous traps but these are more cleverly designed than many of the previous films and the film moves at a remarkably better clip, never getting quite as dull as the last few disasters.

The idea of testing a man who has chosen who will live or die in his profession being forced to literally do so through Jigsaw’s tests is an undeniably more clever one than the last few films. Having said that, “Saw VI” still weighs down in a TON of franchise back story, mostly just ways to get Tobin Bell and even Shawnee Smith to appear via flashback. The film works best when it focuses on the traps, not the history of Jigsaw, although the history of how the latest rat fell into Jigsaw’s maze makes one wonder how he wouldn’t be the first guy that this serial killer targeted.

Despite the notably better pacing and dialogue, “Saw VI” still suffers from the exhaustion of a franchise that produced six films in as many years. It’s clear that this exhaustion translated to the audience as well with “Paranormal Activity” stealing this film’s thunder last fall. “Saw VI” tanked, making about half of the previous title holder for lowest-grossing “Saw” film, the first one. A 3D seventh “Saw” film is reportedly planned to be released this fall against a reported “Paranormal Activity 2”. Anyone else think that’s a real bad idea?

Special features on the Blu-ray release of “Saw VI” include Audio Commentary with Producer Mark Burg and Executive Producers Peter Block and Jason Constantine, Audio Commentary with Director Kevin Greutert and Screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, “Jigsaw Revealed” featurette, “The Traps of SAW VI” featurette, “A Killer Maze: Making SAW GAME OVER” featurette, Music videos from the bands Mushroomhead, Memphis May Fire, Hatebreed and Suicide Silence, Original theatrical trailer, Lionsgate Live™ * (requires profile 2.0 player), and BD-Touch and Metamenu Remote™ enabled. The Blu-ray version also includes the original “Saw” in the same case - a pretty cool bonus to get a whole separate film, still easily the best in the series.

‘Saw VI’ is released by Lionsgate Home Video and stars Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Mark Rolston, Peter Outerbridge, and Shawnee Smith. It was written by Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton and directed by Kevin Greutert. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 26th, 2010. It is not rated or rated R. content director Brian Tallerico

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