The "Saw" franchise is a prime example of the saying, "when it ain't broke, don't fix it." Within the nine-film franchise, they all followed the same pattern of gratuitous violence being perpetrated against bad people. While this newest film still has copious amounts of violence, we actually have a protagonist who wants to stop a monster. Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock) discovered that a new killer inspired by the infamous Jigsaw murders is wreaking havoc within the police force. This leads to Zeke's retired police chief father (Samuel L. Jackson) coming on board to help to find the killer.
Director Darren Lynn Bousman, who has now directed four films in the franchise, knows what audiences want. From the time of the first brutal kill, there's a relishing in the violence that you can see is being made against crooked police officers. A killer who's going after crooked police is something that many will consider being a "relevant" mirror to the world today. Unfortunately, that subtext is where Spiral suffers because it never becomes as complex as it should be. Any messaging that the film wants to convey is forcibly pushed to the backburner for the kills. It's rather frustrating when these ideas being toyed with aren't given the room to breathe.
One saving grace for this muddled messaging is our two performances by Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson. Rock is definitely trying to flex acting muscles that audiences never knew he had. When the film forces him to really emote, it's hard not to chuckle because we know him as "the funny man." You can see the potential for him to be a serious actor, but this isn't the prime real estate for him to become something more. Jackson as his father, delivers the quirks that we've come to expect from him. The real entertainment comes from watching him navigate Jigsaw traps.
What's undeniable is that watching Jackson, Rock and his new rookie partner Max Minghella is thoroughly entertaining. Being only 90 minutes long, the film dives directly into the action without a lot of explanation. As a narrative device to make the viewer feel on edge, it works exceptionally well. Unfortunately, it becomes problematic how the film rushes to a conclusion that it doesn't earn. The journey itself delivers on a rather basic level that fans of this franchise will probably expect. Cinematically, the problem here is that the story makes a promise it never fully commits itself to. That promise tries for a resolution that never feels like it's been earned. It plays as if there are another 20 minutes that give audiences the sense of closure that they may want.
I want to make something clear here while watching "Spiral," it was a lot of fun. The biggest problem is that it rushes through what we want to see. Tackling the concept of crooked police officers was ripe with potential. Throughout the film, we get so many truly scary moments. It's the combination of those moments that make for a film that's entertaining but empty. With the supposed idea of sequels, there's no denying that I'll be interested to see where this story could go. In the meantime, this supposed first chapter does a lot of table-setting that doesn't lean into the substance it really could have. However, there's plenty of fun to be had, even if it doesn't add up to much.
Watch Trailer Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzy6ORqE9IY