Written by: Leigh Whannell & Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Donnie Wahlberg, Franky G, Glenn Plummer, Beverley Mitchell, Dina Meyer
When you’ve done enough research on an individual, especially like the serial killer highlighted in this film, you just know you’ve gotta play by the rules. With clear ethics, however deranged, no matter how well you think you’ve got the situation handled, someone like Jigsaw will have planned for any and all variables. This ultimately becomes the lesson on the sequel to the groundbreaking original.
Hot on the tails of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) the serial killer, Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) finally has him cornered only for Jigsaw to reveal Eric’s son has been taken and put in a large house with other strangers. Eric must sit down and have a conversation with Jigsaw or the serial killer will ensure Eric’s son dies through the nerve agent released in that house.
Working on two levels, this revisit into the world of Jigsaw has two simultaneous games being played at once with deadly stakes occurring in both. The first occurs with Eric and his other officers who have seemingly found and cornered Jigsaw. An odd thing to happen so soon in the feature considering the general elusiveness of this figure, but the added wrinkle of Eric’s son in serious danger brings in the catch and what occurs in the house brings the thrills while everything with Eric and Jigsaw lies in the philosophical.
Apparent strangers in the house with Eric’s son, these individuals receive the notification about their incoming death unless they get the antidote hidden in different places within the house. With limited time, this film takes the groundbreaking idea of the first film, which had everything take place in one room, but simply expands it to multiple rooms and several more individuals bringing in different variables into the equation. With an increased budget for this feature, it definitely comes through with the elaborate traps and games held within this house, and they each pack a punch. With the first feature creating several gruesome moments occurring off-screen, this feature transitions this franchise into showing it all along with the accompanying gore. These traps certainly do their job in making the audience wince from the pain these characters endure.
The individuals in the house bring the exciting moments of the feature, but the more intriguing one comes from the aggravation of Eric having to hold a conversation with Jigsaw. Simple instructions but very difficult to follow, understandably, considering Eric’s son’s life hangs in the balance with this serial killer seemingly playing games. The ending of the feature really lays out the true simplicity of this request, but just like in the first film, the philosophy of Jigsaw and his motivations really outline testing people and their appreciation for life. This occurs with Eric and especially in the way Jigsaw focuses everything occurring here around him in such a shocking matter but one that does not become evidently clear at the start.
From watching the first film and the incredible and inventive twist at the end, a certain expectation exists of this feature having the same and while James Wan did not come back to direct this one, Leigh Whannell’s impact in returning as a scribe certainly had reverberations. The reveals in this feature work so well because of how it reframes the story on several occasions, which makes the legend of Jigsaw bigger with him always having the upper hand even when it does not appear to be the case, especially when surrounded by police. This occurs in both settings and satisfyingly pieces everything together exactly as Jigsaw wants it to occur.
With an enhanced budget and larger ambition, Saw II takes what worked well in the first feature and blows it up with more characters and thrills. It manages to handle both sides of the feature in such an engaging level and merges them in a meaningful way to show the audience and the characters, once again, that Jigsaw will always be three steps ahead of everyone else no matter the planning and wit the other characters claim to have. A grim reality each of these characters begins to learn as this feature goes along. A wonderful success as it expands the world, avoids the trappings of what can bog down sequels, and maintains the quality to a high degree.