Is It a Rigg Saw?
"Saw IV" is a surprising movie, surprising not for the level of gore but because after watching "Saw III" I was left feeling slightly cheated. In "Saw III" All the drama & tension which I had enjoyed had seemingly been replaced for more and more gore. So when "Saw IV" came along I was expecting and not looking forwards to more of the same but because I had invested the time in watching the first 3 "Saw" movies and a slight case of curiosity killed the cat I had to watch. Well the bad news is that "Saw IV" still doesn't deliver in the same way as the original does, but it does make sense of "Saw III" and a lot things from the earlier "Saw" movies becomes clearer.
Upon discovering the body of Detective Kerry, FBI agents Strahm (Scott Patterson - Concrete Canyons) and Perez (Athena Karkanis) arrive on the scene to assist detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor - Sub Zero) in unravelling the grisly clues to try and piece together Jigsaw's latest puzzle. But when SWAT leader Rigg (Lyriq Bent) goes missing he becomes part of the investigation as they question his involvement in the case. But unbeknown to them Rigg is the latest victim of Jigsaw's puzzles as he is given 90 minutes to overcome a series of traps & tests or face the gruesome outcome.
The most interesting thing is that whilst "Saw IV" goes down the same route with a series of traps devised to let people see the error of their ways it also comes across more like a traditional thriller than an all out gore fest. What I mean is that there appears to be much more emphasis on telling various stories than in any of its predecessors. You have the story surrounding SWAT team leader Rigg who like many of his police buddies has found themselves caught up in one of Jigsaws games. Plus you have stories surrounding Forensic detective Hoffman and FBI agent Strahm as they try to unravel the clues to Riggs's whereabouts but also as to whether he is actually assisting Jigsaw. This does make it a rather more interesting movie, especially as the stories evolve they clear up several unsolved moments in the previous "Saw" movies.
What "Saw IV" also does is to delve further into the background of John Kramer or Jigsaw as we better know him. We learn that it's not just the terminal cancer which caused him to start trying to teach people a lesson through his sadistic traps and I must admit that although not overly original does help explain a lot when it comes to the whole "Saw" series of movies.
Now here is the thing which I didn't really like about "Saw IV", it's seriously confusing unless you are prepared to sit there and concentrate on what is going on. With the movie opening with the autopsy of Jigsaw after having died at the end of "Saw III" it then jumps and you are left wondering when in the actual time line of the "Saw" movies the events you are watching are happening. I will be honest it wasn't until the second viewing that I really understood where "Saw IV" sits in the series, because the first time round I had expected another in your face gore fest and when things got a little more complicated I failed to pick up on the intricate details.
Then of course there is the gore and I feel that maybe after some of the complaints they received when "Saw III" hit the big screen they toned it down for the fourth movie. Even so those elements of gore are still shocking, at times ingenious and will undoubtedly get many cringing at the sadistic nature of the torture traps. But what was shocking for me is that having seen many horror movies which go down the visual gore route I felt a little cold to the various traps. They lacked the impact and tension which those in the earlier movies achieved which either means they were toned down or that to really raise a shock out of me the gore needed to be even more torturous.
Acting wise well other than Tobin Bell doing an even greater job in the role of Jigsaw, mainly thanks to the storyline covering his back story and allowing us to see his other side, the other characters and performances are pretty average. Lyrig Bent does a fair job as the caring Rigg who takes his job very personally and Scott Patterson as Agent Strahm looks like any other typical FBI Agent and could easily have been transplanted from the X Files. Even Costas Mandylor as Detective Hoffman comes across as just another detective. But then this is not really a criticism as if anyone of those actors and their characters really stood out above the others it would affect the balance of the movie.
What this all boils down to is that after thinking at the end of "Saw III" that the "Saw" movies had run their course has my mind been changed? Well not really as I still feel that the first two "Saw" movies had something unique which so far has not been achieved in "Saw III" and "Saw IV" and so although this movie ties a lot of lose strands together it was still lacking the originality and tension that made the first movie such a hit. Am I glad I watched it, well yes and would recommend fans of the "Saw" movies to watch it a couple of times so that they pick up on all those story elements it attempts to tie up but not to expect the visual impact of it to get any better.