Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Sequences of Grisly Bloody Violence and Torture, and Language
Directed by: Kevin Greutert
Written by: Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan
Starring: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Cary Elwes, Sean Patrick Flanery, Gina Holden, Laurence Anthony, Dean Armstrong, Naomi Snieckus & Rebecca Marshall
After the SAW series began to bring home diminishing returns, Lionsgate decided that it was time to end the once-profitable franchise. This resulted in two planned sequels becoming a seventh final entry in the franchise. Under the title of SAW 3D (later retitled to SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER), the seventh SAW attempted to answer one big question from fans and tie everything up in a gory final outing. Is it successful at either of these things? Well, kind of, but not really. SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER is far from the worst film in series (that distinction still belongs to SAW V), but it’s easily the blandest chapter of the bunch.
Picking up after the conclusion of the better-than-expected-but-still-not-good SAW VI, FINAL CHAPTER sees Jigsaw’s distressed ex-wife Jill (Betsy Russell) running from revenge-driven Jigsaw protégé Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). While Jill attempts to make a deal with the cops, it’s clear that Hoffman is trying to find any way to kill her. Meanwhile, supposed Jigsaw survivor-turned-motivational-speaker Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flannery) finds himself confronting past lies and facing a series of twisted traps that put his survival instincts to the test. Blood, traps, and body parts also fly towards the camera…because this film was originally shown in 3D and it’s impossible not to be reminded of that gimmick.
While the later SAW sequels (4-7) definitely weren’t up to nearly the same level of quality as the first three films in the series, SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER is almost enjoyable in a trashy sort of way. By this point, the series had become a mess of convoluted continuity, unrealistic gore, plot holes, and goofy scenarios. SAW fans were just kind of forced to sit back and watch the bloody mayhem ensue. However, I’d question whether anyone can take SAW VII seriously in any way, shape, or form. This script is dumb as a rock and it’s clear that the screenwriters were forced to rush things to a conclusion, while not being totally comfortable with the final outcome.
As far as the acting goes, Russell and Mandylor are just as crappy as ever. They also take up a lot of screen time here as we get flashbacks that delve a little deeper into Hoffman’s corrupt cop past and Jill frantically tries to save her own ass from a fate that seems sort of deserved (she did try to kill Hoffman). All the while, series’ newcomer Chad Donella comes off like the poor man’s Matthew McConaughey as internal affairs officer Matt Gibson. Donella might not have great acting chops, but he certainly got frequent chuckles out of me through his over-the-top reactions and goofy dialogue delivery.
Sean Patrick Flanery (of BOONDOCK SAINTS fame) scores the best storyline as a fraud who’s forced to confront his lies in grisly ways. The character of Bobby Dagen is an idiot and had to realize that the actual Jigsaw killer was going to come for him if he lied about being in a trap, so Flanery’s story arc is actually pretty fun and oddly satisfying to watch in a sick way. Of course, there’s the obligatory Tobin Bell flashback and his wardrobe choice seems like it was specifically chosen to get laughs (a backwards baseball cap and hoodie don’t exactly look like they belong on an elderly man). Gina Holden delivers the best acting in the film as Bobby’s misled wife, though she’s just regulated to being a damsel-in-distress.
As far as FINAL CHAPTER’s traps go, these death sequences are hit-or-miss. The seventh film’s best trap belongs to a gory scenario that sees Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington switching his vocal talents from singing to screaming as a neo-Nazi who realizes that we’re all the same color underneath our skin. As for the traps that Bobby encounters, they range from deadly obstacles to seemingly unwinnable games (like trying to avoid making vocal noises as someone pulls a fishhook out of your stomach) and one ludicrously laughable moment that’s meant to be taken as a straight-faced tragic revelation.
Sadly, FINAL CHAPTER’s effects leave much to be desired. This SAW was shown/filmed in 3D, which means that shit gets thrown at the camera every few minutes. These items range from jets of blood to body parts to a hacksaw during the biggest eye-roll worthy bit. The blood also looks like pink fruit punch for some reason. It’s clear that an effort was made to make FINAL CHAPTER the bloodiest SAW ever, with the highest body count of the series. However, the fake-looking blood and goofy effects distance the viewer from being disturbed or shocked. Instead, they transform a would-be gross-out gorefest into a silly viewing experience.
SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER attempts to deliver fan service by bringing back Cary Elwes (six years after he starred in the original film) and packs the biggest body count. However, the film is mixed bag thanks to shoddy acting, hit-or-miss traps, ridiculous continuity that’s comical at this point, and finale that doesn’t feel very satisfying. I look at this SAW as the biggest B-movie of the franchise, but it’s not nearly as disappointing as SAW IV or as terrible as SAW V. If you’ve watched all of the other SAWs, then you’re bound to watch this one too. If you’ve only seen the first three movies (like I recommended), then you’re not missing anything at all by skipping this flick. Also, seeing as JIGSAW (the eighth SAW film) arrives in two months, I just have to call out the final line of this movie. Game over? My ass!