Time: 108 Minutes
Tobin Bell as John Kramer
Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young
Angus Macfadyen as Jeff Denlon
Bahar Soomekh as Lynn Denlon
Dina Meyer as Detective Allison Kerry
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) abducts a doctor (Bahar Soomekh) in order to keep himself alive while he watches his new apprentice (Shawnee Smith) put an unlucky citizen named Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) through a brutal test.
Saw III is the last of the Saw movies I’m rewatching before I watch the rest of the series for the first time. From my last viewing, I remember this being just okay, though definitely steps below the previous two movies. However, that was a couple of years ago, so I thought I’d give it another go. My thoughts remain pretty much the same, it’s just okay at best.
The writing is a very mixed bag. The first half does feel dragged quite a bit, but the movie does pick up as it goes along. Saw III doesn’t quite have the originality of the first two movies, and essentially is the same old story as before. It has two ongoing storylines, one is following a character named Jeff, who is put through a series of Jigsaw’s tests. The other is Jigsaw having his apprentice Amanda kidnap a doctor, and getting her to keep him alive for one more test. The Jeff storyline involves him wanting revenge on the people responsible for something that killed his son, and then finding those people caught in traps to test him. It certainly had potential and was more than just Jeff trying to survive traps. However, the execution of that storyline had much to be desired. I guess a large part is that the character of Jeff was quite annoying and hard to like, but everything else in that storyline still felt rather familiar. The doctor storyline with Jigsaw and Amanda was a little more interesting, I liked the dynamic between those three characters. Granted the other storyline not being that good certainly helped, but it really says something that the storyline that doesn’t involve traps is way better than the storyline that does (and in a Saw movie of all things). It’s also not trying really hard to shock you with the gore, and the one scene that is a bit gory is genuinely effective and one of the best scenes of the film.
The theme of this movie is letting go and knowing what a life costs to you, and it really beats you over the head with that throughout. The thing is that this time, you aren’t really tense about the main characters actually potentially dying. It also doesn’t help that you don’t really like a lot of the characters, at the very least Jeff. As a result, it’s hard to be emotionally connected to the story, which is unfortunate considering that it is actually trying to actually add an emotional dimension to it. There are conversations of morality and it can feel a little self important and soap opera-esque at times, but I even enjoyed that. Saw III is a lot more crazy than the previous two movies, and it’s also a lot more far fetched and ridiculous with its plot. The plot is also more disjointed and unfocused, and the inconsistencies become more frequent and noticeable as the film progresses. The Saw series has been widely labelled torture porn, and I firmly say that the first two movies aren’t that. While I wouldn’t quite call Saw III torture porn, it is definitely leaning towards it with this instalment. This movie attempts to be more grisly and darker, however it still ends up being sillier. Saw III links its story to the first movie and the second movie, and while I liked seeing the connections, the timeline is a mess. I’m guessing that with the remaining movies in the series, they are only going to continue linking the entries together and make an even more confused timeline. There is a twist ending (unsurprising, it’s a Saw movie), I do like it, and there was more to it than I was expected. However I will note that it is such a downer ending, that it somehow ends up being cartoonish. The movie is an hour and 50 minutes long and that actually seemed a bit too long for the movie, especially with some of the dragging pace.
Tobin Bell is great as Jigsaw as usual, even if for this movie he’s stuck on a bed for the entirety of it. Shawnee Smith also returns as Amanda, the former victim of Jigsaw turned apprentice. The mentor-mentee dynamic between the two characters keeps this movie interesting for the most part, even if Amanda seemed a little different compared to at the end of the last movie. The two main characters are Jeff and Lynn (the doctor). Jeff played by Angus Macfadyen is the protagonist and as stated earlier, he was rather annoying and hard to like, even with the basis of his character being him having a son who was killed and him wanting revenge. The performance is also a bit of a mixed bag. He’s my least favourite major character in the Saw movies so far. Lynn played by Bahar Soomekh wasn’t a particularly interesting character but she was alright, and was at least better than Jeff. The majority of the rest of the cast outside were rather bad.
Saw III is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed Saw II, and it’s generally directed the same way and is more of the same, albeit with some differences. For one, it definitely has an even larger budget compared to the past 2 movies, going from $1.2 million and $4 million to $10 million. Another difference is the level of gore. Saw II upped the gore over the first movie, however Saw III takes things to a whole new level with its reliance on it for shock effect. From the first scene of the movie, it’s pretty clear that it’s going for heightened brutality. Despite how over the top they are, the practical effects for the gore are actually very well done. There’s a lot of traps as to be expected, but they are even more elaborate and ridiculous than before. By this point you are probably wondering how they even come up with traps like these. They’re creative if nothing else. I do like the look of the movie, as well as the sets. The editing style carries over from the previous Saw movies, and it’s still bad. The thing is that you can probably tell that the first Saw was edited like that because of restrictions, including strict filming times, and the lower budget. The second Saw copied it unnecessarily, and now because of that, it’s seemingly become a staple of the Saw series since it re-appears in this movie. If you don’t know what I mean, during some more intense moments it gets really fast paced and flashy. There are fast montage cuts when a person is stuck in a trap, and there are dramatic cuts and white flashes when it goes into one of its many flashback sequences or reveals. It’s usually done in an attempt to make the scenes more tense but more often than not it’s kind of annoying. With that said, there are some moments which work, such as one scene involving brain surgery. One reoccurring Saw aspect is Charlie Clouser’s score, which is iconic and well fitting as usual.
Saw III is worse than the previous two movies in the series, but I wouldn’t call it bad. There are some aspects of the story I liked, Tobin Bell as usual shines as Jigsaw, and some of the over the top moments including the gore and soap opera story are enjoyable. At the same time, the story is a mixed bag, and doesn’t feel particularly fresh compared to the other movies. I am aware that generally speaking, most people agree that the first Saw is regarded as the best of the series, the second and third are the next best, and the others are worse than those. Given how Saw III is, I don’t have a lot of faith in the remainder of the sequels.