Spiral movie review: Chris Rock's silly Saw reboot swears by stupidity
Spiral movie review: Chris Rock's Saw reboot has the look and feel of a moderately-budgeted Mountain Dew commercial where everybody is one mishap away from yelling ‘dar ke aage jeet hai’ to their scene partner.
Gaudily directed, poorly performed, and egregiously ignorant of its weighty themes, Spiral: From the Book of Saw is a missed opportunity that not only scoffs at the older films in the franchise, but also bungles its attempts to win new fans.
Based on an idea that Chris Rock, of all people, came up with and described ‘in chilling detail’ to the heads of Lionsgate, Spiral is at least partially made up of riffs that didn’t make the cut for the legendary comedian’s standup sets.
Watch the Spiral trailer here:
Moments after a garishly-filmed opening scene, the film cuts to Rock’s Detective Ezekiel ‘Zeke’ Banks performing B-material about Forrest Gump to coworkers. Moments after that, he makes a racist joke about Jamaicans. And that’s when you realise that this movie has missed all three shots that it has taken.
It gets worse. A few minutes later, Zeke’s first conversation with his new partner, played by Max Minghella, is a one-sided sexist tirade about ungrateful women. Bear in mind, the plot hasn’t even kicked into gear yet, and the movie has managed to aggressively alienate the audience on moral grounds alone. Why are we supposed to care about this guy again?
Spiral is the ninth instalment in the Saw franchise, whose premise was inspired by a scene in the original Mad Max. It’s somewhat telling that series creator James Wan didn’t have any creative input in this film, and retains only a rudimentary executive producer credit. He’s moved on to greener pastures. Rock, however, not only came up with the idea, but also contributed to the writing.
This might sound like an odd fit, on paper. But if Jordan Peele and John Krasinski can transition from comedy to horror, then why not the star of Pootie Tang? Plus, people underestimate the similarities between the two genres. On a psychological level, what’s your instinctive reaction to a good jump scare? That’s right, relieved laughter.
But there are no jump scares in Spiral. Normally that’d be a good thing; jump scares are lazy, and the absolute worst. But in Spiral, all attempts at catching you off guard fail miserably. That’s because the film never fully commits to a tone. Part of it is a police procedural about a copycat killer who taunts Zeke by killing cops, and the rest of it is a Saw-style gore-fest in which people get lured into seedy locations, where elaborate traps that invariably involve dismemberment of some sort lay in wait.
Directed by franchise veteran Darren Lynn Bouseman, who previously swore he’d never make another Saw movie but was apparently coaxed back into the fold by Rock himself, Spiral has the look and feel of a moderately-budgeted Mountain Dew commercial where everybody is one mishap away from yelling ‘dar ke aage jeet hai’ to their scene partner.
The film is set in Los Angeles but has zero sense of place. And it’s so plot-driven that you don’t get a single second to appreciate the core ideas that probably prompted Rock to do this in the first place.
For years, the comedian has been staging a silent protest on social media — in addition to his more vocal, politically-charged standup — against racial profiling in the US. He posts a selfie from his car every time he gets pulled over by the cops for no reason. In Spiral, the copycat killer appears to be targeting only the bad apples, narrating their misdeeds to them before killing them off in brutal fashion. Many a Derek Chauvin-type is exposed. But for some reason, the film feels oddly reigned in, not when it comes to violence and swearing — there’s plenty of that — but certainly in its treatment of socio-political themes.
In its final moments, Spiral descends into full-blown lunacy, where Abbas-Mustan-style twists are hurled at you with the force of a potato sack to the face. All pretence of prestige is pushed to the side as the film surrenders to the torture porn aesthetic of previous entries. And you’re left hanging, wondering what the point of it all was.
Director - Darren Lynn Bouseman
Cast - Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Marison Nichols, Samuel L Jackson
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The author tweets @RohanNaahar
Spiral is available to stream in India on Lionsgate Play