Saw VI | Horror | rated R (L,V,G) | starring Costas Mandylor, Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith | 1:30 mins

After his escape in Saw V, detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) continues his work to carry on Jigsaw’s work. As the police close in and John Kramer’s (Tobin Bell, seen in flashback again) wife gets in on the plan, he sets up a trap in which the head of the claims and investigations department of Umbrella Insurance company is brought face-to-face with the people he has allowed to live or die by denying and approving coverage.

I’m actually shocked. Saw VI surprised me. 6 movies in, most of them garbage,  I never thought I’d ever see another decent Saw movie, but this one… is actually good. Three cheers for Project Greenlight/Feast writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan for realizing the potential this franchise entry has to play right into topical current events. Saw VI is the socially conscious Saw taking the national health care/insurance coverage debate and folding it pretty seamlessly into the franchise. Traps where characters choose who lives or dies based on their perceived value or how much they are willing to give up to save them seems tailor made to satirize the insurance industry given what we know of their practice in a post-Sicko world. There is a story here!

This entry takes on the unenviable task of wrapping up and explaining a lot of what happened in the last 3 films. Saw has mastered revising history at this point, constantly backing up and showing us another angle of a scene we’ve seen before, finding a way to justify it’s latest turn. But darn if VI doesn’t make sense. It’s the first time in the series I’ve actually gotten the impression that this was planned in some way and not making it up as they went along. They probably still did, but the explanations we get in VI are satisfying.

There is actually quite a lot going on in Saw VI. It juggles the chaos well. In addition to the current trap storyline (which by itself is one of the more watchable, entertaining ones of the series), and back tracking through the Jigsaw storyline, it’s now also juggling Hoffman’s storyline as a crooked cop who comes closer then ever now to being caught and it brings in Kramer’s widow now as a major player in the game but doesn’t quite agree with Hoffman’s style of carrying out John’s wishes. It is also more complex in terms of the character dynamics. The lines between who is good and who is bad have never been more blurred. Once a psycho serial killer who instilled fear because of his moral judgements on whether YOU were wasting your life, the series has taken to humanizing Jigsaw with each film. In VI he’s a full-on vigilante for the little guy. Anyone’s who was ever talked into a mortgage they couldn’t afford or denied insurance coverage for their illness. Jigsaw’s brand of justice is sure to get an audience cheering for him. Death Traps you can believe in.

Director Kevin Greutert doesn’t seem to lust over the blood, guts and bone crunching the way prior directors did to create the now commonly used adage of Torture Porn. Overblown quick-cutting, a trademark of the series, is kept to a minimum. A good portion of the story is actually given over to John Kramer musing over the health care debate and another good portion is involved in the criminal investigation to get the Jigsaw copycat. This Saw is more a detective film then a torture porn film. For a series known for twists that redefine the reality of the movie, the twist in Saw VI is a a minor, more subtle and more story-heavy one. It certainly drew me to the edge of my seat as the film closed. Saw VI is easily the most entertaining Saw film since the first one with a surprisingly level-headed social consciousness underneath it. It’s satire topped with bloody entrails. I’m not a huge Saw fan in general, but this one is definitely worth a look.