Saw IV

Published: Monday, Oct. 29 2007 8:11 p.m. MDT

He has but one facial expression — iguana. And there is just one note in his voice — obscene phone caller before the age of Caller ID.

But they've served Tobin Bell well through the lucrative clockwork-killing machine known as the "Saw" franchise.

Not fair. It's what the character calls for. Surely, Bell would rather be playing Lear than a reptilian mass murderer masquerading as a judge, jury and executioner named Jigsaw. Then again. ...

We saw Jigsaw dead at the end of, what was it? "Saw III"? We watch his grisly, Anatomy 401-detailed autopsy (pointless) in the first seven minutes of "Saw IV." But Jigsaw's back, in flashbacks and in spirit, on those cheap-jack microcassette tapes, in this ghoulish marionette that he seems to have placed 744 copies of, in various killing rooms, over four "Saw" movies.

What's grown more amusing as the movies have "bled out" themselves, weaker and weaker in their excruciating, squirm-inducing scenes set on the knife-edge of dilemma, is seeing how each succeeding screenwriter or team of writers has struggled to bring the dead back to life. Dead characters, dead gimmicks, resuscitated from film to film. It's like a soap opera where folks fall down mine shafts or are "lost at sea," only to return as different, cheaper actors.

Jigsaw is indeed dead. But through flashbacks and a headache-inducing string of plot twists involving characters from this movie or an earlier one, we have his family history explained, his motivations explained, his degree of guilt explained.

Cops go missing, and there's a ticking clock — with 90 minutes to save them. Elaborate tortures are devised for characters we know so little about that the tortures don't quite fit their "crimes," something we were taught to expect in the original "Saw."

It's exposition-exposition-exposition-DEATH-exposition-exposition-ANOTHER DEATH, all in dark, dank rooms where "See what I see" and "Feel what I feel" and "Cherish your life" are scrawled on the walls.

"Saw IV" is rated R for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture throughout, and for language. Running time: 108 minutes.

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