The game is lost

Saw III is missing a few pieces to the puzzle

Rated 2.0

Do you want to play a game? By all means, yes. Bring it on. But remember the rules.

Unfortunately for the newest edition of this gorefest, the rules are broken. All bets are off. And everyone loses.

The concept is simple—present not-so-good people with a horrifyingly painful test, and when (or if) they pass, they might walk out with a greater appreciation for life. It’s bloody, it’s gutsy, and it has a great twist at the end. But what works for the first two Saw flicks fails here—because somebody’s not playing by the rules.

Somehow, the film tries to unify all three installments (including snippets from the first two and explanations not given before) while at the same time very quickly wrapping up loose ends from Saw II. This makes the movie both satisfying and unsatisfying.

In Saw III, Jigsaw, aka John, is still alive (barely), and he has just a few more tests to administer. To help him in this effort is Amanda (Shawnee Smith), his young prodigy.

Together, John (Tobin Bell) and Amanda kidnap a bright, beautiful doctor (Bahar Soomekh). She’s having marital problems, and John doesn’t like the fact that she’s cheating on her husband. They bring her to their lair to keep John, who is dying of cancer, alive while a different game is being played. (She is also playing—they have attached a device around her neck that will send multiple bullets into her head should John’s heart stop beating.)

Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) has been torn to pieces (not literally) after his son is killed by a drunken driver. To make matters worse, the judge sentenced the driver to just six months. He is, of course, kidnapped, and he wakes up inside a wooden box. A tape recorder explains the rules. Forgiveness, according to John, is the key to putting Jeff’s life back together. A number of tests aim to teach him that forgiveness. Let the game begin.

Where the first two films were shocking and gory and, actually, quite clever, this one is missing a few pieces—and it can probably be blamed on Amanda. She’s too loose a cannon and John, whose meticulous approach made the other films work beautifully, is constantly forced to calm her down.

Blood and gore aside—rest assured, if that’s why you’re going to the theater, there is plenty to go around—Saw III lacks the punch of the first two. It’s really too bad, too, because up until this point, the series was going so well. Now there are rumors of Saw IV and V, but unless they’re prequels like everyone seems to enjoy making these days, they’re probably going to suck.

(This note goes out to the parent who carried his small child into the theater for Saw III on Sunday night: get a babysitter. No child—or anyone else, really—should have to put up with the torture of this movie.)