May 14th, 2021
STARRING: CHRIS ROCK, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, MAX MINGHELLA, MARISOL NICHOLS
DIRECTED BY: DARREN LYNN BOUSMAN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
At this point in time, we can add the Saw series to the collection of horror movies, which has so many installments (Nine total) that the existence of them supersedes whether any of them are good or not. The first Saw movie is excellent, James Wan’s introduction to cinema was a breakout hit, confining its characters to a room, with the option to saw off their own leg or die. It certainly had audiences talking, asking themselves what they would do in that situation, but sadly the series has never recaptured what made the original so good. And now we have Spiral, a fresh reboot of sorts to the Saw series, with Chris Rock taking control as our lead character, as a detective trying to solve the case of a new sort of jigsaw copycat. Director Darren Lynn Bousman has the right intentions to veer the series into a new direction, but instead ends up winding back to where we began. Spiral is a trap into another mediocre installment of Saw-style mystery and bloodshed.
The hero this time is detective Zeke Banks (Rock), a veteran and someone who catches flak for being one cop that won’t stand for police corruption. When one of his lone buddies on the force ends up mangled by a contraption on his head and a deathly blow from a train, this sends Zeke on the case to find out who could have done this, especially considering Jigsaw was taken care of years ago. Captain Garza (Marisol Nichols) gives Zeke the case and his new partner William Schenk (Max Minghella) is willing to join in to earn Zeke’s respect. Audio tapes arrive at the station, notes that say “Do you wanna play a game?” are written on the walls, more cops are being killed with brutal torture devices, and Zeke must follow the clues to find the new Spiral killer.
It’s a bit hard to put my finger on the one reason why Spiral doesn’t work. The screenplay by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger isn’t the worst, taking a stab at the police facing their corrupt practices, while doing their all to stop a killer on the loose. It’s more that the performances reading the script are never good. It’s not till Samuel L. Jackson shows up as Zeke’s father, the now retired police chief Marcus Banks, when we see an actor that doesn’t look or sound like they are trying hard. The direction by Bousman is also lacking, both in energy and an obvious ability to let his actors know that what he has wasn’t working. Like many of the previous Saw movies, the murder contraptions are inventive, and gruesome, but it’s in between those moments where we suffer.
That’s also Spiral’s biggest crime, which is that it becomes tedious and boring. Characters are killed off and the mystery of who the murderer becomes clear and still it’s impossible to care. With what should be a brisk and thrilling hour and thirty-minute runtime, getting to the end of Spiral is a slog. Rock’s character is fighting his demons, seeing flashbacks of incidents that impacted his career, and connecting him to the victims. It could be interesting to see, but Rock’s performance is so over the top, a clear example of someone fighting to prove their ability outside of comedy and ultimately trying too hard. Rock’s not the worst, but I know he can be much better.
That’s ultimately what makes Spiral a major disappointment, where it seems to be making an effort to be different from what was offered in past Saw movies, with a bigger cast of known actors, a bigger budget, and still churning out a product that’s no different from the other movies that came before it. Spiral takes us down a path of mystery, but you won’t like where you end up. Frankly, I would rather play a game.
SPIRAL OPENS EXCLUSIVELY IN THEATERS FRIDAY MAY 14TH
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady