Franchise reboots should come in, guns a-blazing, reminding us why we cared about the product in the first place.
The “Saw” reboot has a tougher hill to climb.
The original series peaked early, soldiering on well past its expiration date. By the end, only torture porn enthusiasts cared.
On paper, “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” represents a true renovation project. Powered by name talent like Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, the reboot suggests fresh blood into an anemic franchise.
They don’t make movies on paper, though, something “Spiral” proves repeatedly over its blah 93-minute run.
Rock stars as Zeke, an honest detective swimming in a sea of corrupt cops. He defies authority, has no time for a new partner (Max Minghella) and wants to take the lead on his latest case.
In short, he’s a cop we’ve never, ever seen before on screens large and small … a true original!
Zeke gets more than he bargained for with his new assignment. A killer is taking out police officers with methods reminiscent of the old “Jigsaw” killings. One perk of “Spiral?” You don’t have to re-watch the previous “Saw” films to follow what’s happening here. A quick Wikipedia brush-up will suffice, thank you.
Who is behind the new, grotesque killings? Can Zeke overcome his troubled past, including how he ratted out a fellow cop, to save the day?
Here’s a better question: Why hire Jackson if you’re not going to give him more screen time?
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The real head scratcher, though, is why Rock bothered with “Spiral” in the first place. He’s hopelessly miscast, although he’s surrounded by inferior performances which makes him look less silly when he’s over-emoting.
He does that. A lot.
The stand-up turned actor opens the film with a riff on “Forrest Gump” that’s not shabby, and you expect the screenplay to lean into Rock’s comic side.
Nothing doing. It’s all glowers and grumbling from then on.
Rock remains a limited actor, and playing a grizzled cop with a wounded past is not in his comfort zone. That’s being kind. At least the scenery chewing keeps us awake. The central mystery isn’t interesting until the big “reveal,” and the genre elements are gross without tension or fear.
Horror movies are supposed to be scary, remember?
Horror vet Darren Lynn Bousman (“Saw” II, III and IV) doesn’t bother with creepy atmosphere or dread. He deploys the de-facto “Saw” palette – think steel blue imagery of churning gears and chains. Missing is the sense of the unknown and the clever puzzles our heroes have to solve.
There’s nothing inventive about “Spiral,” and that includes the by-the-numbers script which makes the cop cliches sound bold by comparison.
“Spiral” might be embraced by the Black Lives Matter crowd for showing crooked cops in action. Think again. These officers aren’t indiscriminately killing people of color, and some of the bad cops are black.
They couldn’t even get the woke right.
The film’s big selling point? The mysterious “Jigsaw”-like villain leaves more audio samples behind to battle Zeke’s team. The killer’s voice is modest, detached and oddly chilling.
Otherwise, “Spiral” reminds us some horror franchises are both overrated and overdue for extinction.
HiT or Miss: “Spiral” keeps the “Saw” franchise technically alive, delivering more torture porn theatrics with nary a scare in sight.