What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie is not for kids. It features gruesome violence, with detailed, explicit imagery of bodies penetrated by sharp implements, shot, burned up, slammed, smashed, punched, kicked, sawed, cut, and dismembered. The movie includes jump scenes and frequent arguments among victims and cops, as well as between the primary cop and the killer, who holds the cop's son hostage. The father and son argue at the beginning of the film, setting the stage for the father's remorse and anger. Characters bleed (lots), vomit, and cough blood. Characters smoke and curse relentlessly; in flashback, one character injects drugs, to demonstrate her addiction. The film also features "extreme" editing, very rough and jaggedy, which in itself may be disturbing for some viewers.
What's the story?
SAW II brings back the serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), this time as a self-styled family counselor with terminal cancer. It seems that Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) is not paying proper attention to his troubled son Daniel (Erik Knudsen), and so Jigsaw takes a moralistic interest. Eric comes with the usual compromised background: he's been riding a desk since his own coppish corruption was exposed five years ago. Empowered by his deadly illness, Jigsaw gathers together an assortment of Eric's rigged-evidence victims, recently released from prison and puts them in a booby-trapped house with young Daniel. He also arranges to have every room monitored by video camera, the feeds available for viewing by the cops, in Jigsaw's lair.
Is it any good?
As before, Jigsaw points out to anyone who will listen that he doesn't actually kill anyone, he just sets up his victims and then offers them "choices." Their icky deaths are their own fault. Such reasoning was the premise of Saw, a surprise hit that recycled hoary psycho killer conventions to extra-splattery effect ("There will be blood"). In SAW II, the repetition is only compounded: Jigsaw is suffering from terminal cancer, which he presumes grants him moral authority: "Those who do not appreciate life do not deserve life."
And as always, Jigsaw ("Call me John," he tells Eric) is chatty in the extreme, explaining his games far beyond the point of interest. He talks at Eric and by tape, he talks at the victims in the house (including Franky G, Glenn Plummer, and the first film's Shawnee Smith, returned for more abuse). None of the players in this game is particularly appealing. But even as the film's focus on sadistic pleasures raises questions about audiences' desire to "watch," it's all retread.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the movie's rudimentary efforts to set up the killer's "moralistic" framework. How does Jigsaw judge his victims in order to rationalize his cruelty? How might the father and son have worked out their conflict in a less sensational way? What does the son want from his father? And where is the mother in all this?