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‘Saw’ just doesn't cut it

Danny Glover and Carey Elwes star in this cruelly empty film. By David Germain
/ Source: The Associated Press

The fright flick “Saw” is consistent, if nothing else.

This serial-killer tale is inanely plotted, badly written, poorly acted, coarsely directed, hideously photographed and clumsily edited, all these ingredients leading to a yawner of a surprise ending. To top it off, the music’s bad, too.

You could forgive all (well, not all, or even, fractionally, much) of the movie’s flaws if there were any chills or scares to this sordid little horror affair.

But “Saw” director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell, who developed the story together, have come up with nothing more than an exercise in unpleasantry and ugliness.

“Saw” is vicious to no end, loaded with gruesome torture devices and scenarios that Wan and Whannell — and the producers they managed to con into backing the movie — somehow thought audiences would want to see.

How such a cruelly empty and infantile movie got made is mystery enough. More puzzling is why Cary Elwes, Danny Glover and Monica Potter would sign on as co-stars. The biggest question, though, is how Whannell got himself cast in a lead role opposite Elwes.

If Whannell can act, he sure doesn’t show it. Perhaps out of sympathy, the more experienced cast members don’t perform much better.

Most of the movie is set in a dingy, dirty lavatory, where Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Elwes) and a whiny guy named Adam (Whannell) awaken to find themselves chained to opposite walls. Between them is the bloody body of a man who apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Turns out they’re the latest victims of a psychopath known as Jigsaw, who concocts sick games to test the morality of his victims. For Lawrence, it’s the choice of killing Adam or having his wife (Potter) and daughter slain instead.

Crude flashbacks detail the killer’s previous atrocities, with Glover a police detective obsessed over bringing Jigsaw to justice.

Wan and Whannell admit one of their aims was shock value, yet the instruments and stratagems of punishment they come up with are grotesque without being terribly clever. And while they pat themselves on the back for what they think are macabre doodads of death, they muddle up their silly creations with cheap fast-motion effects and clunky editing that obscures the action.

Conversely, the shrill exchanges between Lawrence and Adam and the interplay between Lawrence’s wife and her tormentor are so static, they seem like early table reads of the script, albeit with the actors in chains and gags.

There are no insights into the motivations of serial killers, no perspective on the depths to which the human soul will sink to preserve itself at the expense of others. This movie just wallows in its own unrelenting repulsiveness.

Unless you happen to relish the image of a killer using a stethoscope to hear the changes in a little girl’s heart rate while he holds a gun to her mother’s head, there’s no reason you’ll want to see “Saw.”