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'Saw': Give It the Cut

By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 29, 2004; Page WE41

This grotesque mystery-thriller, which took some minor snipping to avoid an NC-17 rating (ooooh! cool! Not) isn't a third as cool and clever as it would like you to think it is.

The basics: A certain Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and Adam (Leigh Whannell, also the scriptwriter) find themselves ankle-chained to wall pipes in opposite corners of a dilapidated bathroom. They have no idea where they are or how they got there. Both find tapes in their pockets, composed by the mysterious "Jigsaw Man," which pose a life-and-death challenge. A series of clues leads them to the bottom line: They are given hacksaws to cut their way out of captivity. No, not by cutting the chains. Through their ankle bones. Some other complexities of this gruesome game: The doctor's wife and child are being held hostage; they'll die if the men don't play the game within six hours. Oh, and there's a man lying on the floor between them in a pool of blood, a gun in one hand, a tape recorder in the other. (They use that to play the tapes.) Lawrence and Adam slowly realize they must collaborate to get out. They also uncover incriminating secrets about each other, and Lawrence suddenly has a good idea who Jigsaw might be.

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The movie, directed by James Wan, has been a minor hit in England. But its ratio of nastiness to suspense writing is too high. This film's highest priority is the blood and the sawing of leg bones; as for teasing the viewer's brain, that's lower on the list. As a police detective who's involved in a subplot, Danny Glover gets a silly supporting role, especially in the movie's over-the-top (even for a flick like this) finale.

The Internet film geeks are salivating over this one. But humans who live above ground, including horror fans, will find themselves only fitfully entertained and more consistently appalled.

SAW (R, 100 minutes) --Contains very gruesome violence and carnage, bad acting and obscenity. Area theaters.


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