SAW — * — Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover; rated R (violence, gore, profanity, drugs, vulgarity).
There's nothing scary about "Saw," except maybe the acting.
This gimmicky serial-killer thriller is pretty laughable, despite the gruesome subject matter and its graphic, often nauseating gore (even after trims were made to get an R rating).
The set-up and premise are undeniably clever, but this marks the second time in the past few months that a filmmaker has been spectacularly unsuccessful in trying to mimic the style of 1995's "Se7en." (Think "Suspect Zero.")
"Saw" refers to the predicament facing Adam (Leigh Whannell, who also co-wrote the script) and Lawrence (Cary Elwes), who have awakened in a filthy and unfamiliar bathroom. They have been chained at opposite ends of the room, with the grisly remains of an apparent suicide victim lying in between them.
Worse, it appears that the only way they can get free is to hack off a foot. (Their tormentor, the notorious "Jigsaw Killer," has "helpfully" left them each a saw for that purpose.) But what Adam doesn't know is that "Jigsaw" is also holding Lawrence's wife and daughter (Monica Potter and Makenzie Vega) and that he will only set them free if Lawrence kills his cellmate.
It appears their only hope is David Tapp (Danny Glover), a detective who's on the case and who has had a run-in with "Jigsaw" before. And it didn't end well.
It's obvious that first-time director James Wan is trying to emulate the look and atmosphere of the aforementioned "Se7en," but he's undone by the script, which swerves so many times that it becomes ludicrous.
He's also stuck with Elwes, who gives what is without question the worst lead performance in a movie this year. As he desperately tries to mask his British accent, Elwes goes so far over the top in the final 20 minutes that the only term to describe it is "Shatnerlike." (Think "Star Trek.")
Not that any of the cast members are particularly good. Glover's supporting turn here may be the worst of his career, while Potter fails to register even the slightest trace of emotion.
"Saw" is rated R for strong scenes of violence (shootings, a stabbing, self-mutilation and a child in peril), graphic gore and other disturbing images, occasional use of strong sexual profanity and crude sexual slang terms, some drug content (use of prescription medicine) and some questionable humor (a toilet gag). Running time: 100 minutes.