Danny Glover, Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell. The horrifying tale of a serial killer whose deranged MO is to have his victims play sadistic survival-type games-that is, to kill each other or die trying-in order to teach them the real value of life. 2004/color/100 min/R.
Adam (Leigh Whannell) wakes up in a dank room across from Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and the body of a guy who has blown his own brains out. Not a happy place, obviously, and it gets worse when both men realize that they've been chained and pitted against one another by an unseen but apparently omniscient maniac who's screwing with their psyches as payment for past sins. Director James Wan, who concocted this grimy distraction with screenwriter Whannell, has seen Seven
and any number of other arty existential-psycho-cat-and-mouse thrillers, so he's provided Saw
with a little flash, a little blood, and a lot of ways to distract you from the fact that it doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. Wan and Whannell (who's not the most accomplished actor, either) pile on the plot twists, which after some initially novel ideas become increasingly juvenile. Elwes works hard but looks embarrassed, and the estimable Danny Glover suffers as the obsessed detective on the case. The denouement will probably surprise you, but it won't get you back the previous 98 minutes. --Steve Wiecking