Jigsaw (the villain behind the first film’s perils) returns to torment a cop played by Donnie Wahlberg.
The first Saw played like an amalgam of Seven and Cube. This entry skews toward traditional horror, showcasing the sadistic death traps Jigsaw constructs to torment his victims. It’s not all torture. The script still packs some plot twists, but they prove predictable compared to the first film’s interlocking construction.
In keeping with horror tropes, Jigsaw has ascended from clever manipulator to near-omnipotent mastermind. In the first film, his schemes felt inevitable—a single-room deathtrap leaving nothing to chance. This time, he’s trapped a slew of victims in a house filling with a fatal gas. One victim is Wahlberg’s son. Assorted death trap set pieces await throughout the house. But moving the appropriate characters to them relies on convenient plotting. This translates into manufactured emotions and emotive performances from the victims.
Wahlberg proves an exception, acquitting himself well. He convinces as a tired cop, less so as the father of a teenage kid.
One thing that struck me: between Danny Glover’s character in the first film, and the cops in this film, this has to be one of the most incompetent major metropolitan police forces ever assembled. The S.W.A.T. members storm into the suspected hideout of a man with a history of laying booby traps, scream in panic over the radio, and encourage police brutality. Wahlberg recognizes a minute crime-scene detail, but can’t suss a hint of the trap before him. Neither, for that matter, can Dina Meyer who returns having taken over the Jigsaw case from Glover’s character. It begs the question: is Jigsaw so clever, or are the cops so inept?