Less than a year after its first installment, the Saw “franchise” is back to torture moviegoers. It was a no-brainer for Hollywood. What else is there to do when a movie made for little more than $1 million earns $55 million in the U.S. and another $47 million overseas?
This time psychopath Jigsaw has a new batch of fresh, unsuspecting victims to teach a twisted lesson. Among them are detective Eric Matthews and his teenage son, Daniel. After another Jigsaw crime scene involves a strange warning to Eric, the detective and his team manage to track down the criminal. But it’s too late; Jigsaw has already set a booby trap for a group that includes Daniel. After waking up in a strange chamber, he and the others receive cryptic instructions to their “game”: Find an antidote that will save them from the lethal nerve gas that’s already been pumped into their systems while they were asleep.
To do so, they must discover what they all have in common, which will supposedly reveal the combination to a safe containing an exit key. But when Xavier, a self-centered drug dealer willing to trample over anyone, becomes a threat to the entire group, the game turns into a kill-or-be-killed free-for-all. To make things a little trickier, they only have two hours before the gas does the job for them. Meanwhile, as they search for the cure (and a way out), Jigsaw continues to play mind tricks on Eric.
Despite his numerous failings as a father, Eric loves Daniel and risks his life to save him. Other police officers show concern for Eric. During an intense scene, Daniel wants to help Amanda, a veteran of the deranged architect’s games, out of a trap. He also tries to encourage another young woman. A few people suggest working together as a team to find a way to survive.
Once again, Jigsaw has the same purpose behind his madness: To get his victims to appreciate what they have. From his warped viewpoint, his traps offer individuals a chance to redeem themselves. By forcing them into life-or-death situations, “You feel alive ... that’s the point,” he explains. (What he never mentions, however, is that few subjects seem to survive these object lessons—which, in any sane person’s mind, defeats the purpose.)
Jigsaw reminds a victim that “once you’re in hell, only the devil can help you.” The point is furthered when, as the man burns to death, we see a painted picture of the devil among the flames.
Xavier makes a crude comment about a woman being promiscuous. A young woman’s top shows cleavage throughout the movie. Other females’ tops are revealing. A man is seen wearing only briefs.
Gruesome. Gory. Gratuitous. After a man is shot through his eye, blood shoots across the room onto the rest of the group. And the blown-apart back of his head gets up-close screen time more than once. Xavier uses a knife to cut off a layer of flesh from the back his own neck; bloodied close-ups show the blade digging in. He also plunges a homemade mace into the back of a fellow victim’s head; it’s later ripped out by Amanda with full visual and sound effects.
A man’s face is bloodied after Jigsaw has somehow placed a key behind his eye. He’s unwilling to cut out his eye and, as a result, a nail-filled venus flytrap-type device snaps shut on his head creating a massive pool of blood. As the camera pans over every inch of his dead body, we’re given CSI-like snapshots of various grisly lacerations. Another apparatus breaks the legs of a policeman, and his screams are heard for an entire scene. SWAT team members nearly get electrocuted in a cage.
Yet another victim is locked in a furnace and slowly burned to death. While we see his legs on fire and (later) some singes on his head, equally as disturbing are the close-up shots of his convulsing body and his harrowing screams as others watch him die. Caught in a trap, a woman’s arms are virtually shredded by blades.
The film's sick fascination with creative ways to suffer and die just goes on and on. Throats are sliced open. Necks are broken. Suicides are attempted. Men get punched, hit over the head with various objects, kicked in the face and tossed around until they’re bloodied beyond recognition. Influenced by the gas penetrating their lungs, several victims violently throw up and cough up blood. Rotting corpses and severed body parts are shown.
Then, as Saw II concludes, every single torture scene it contains—and several from the original Saw—are replayed as plot elements are connected.
Crude or Profane Language
The f-word appears more than 80 times (often combined with “mother”), while the s-word gets used more than 30 times. God’s name is sullied half-a-dozen times, mostly with “d--n”; Jesus’ is abused twice. Around two-dozen other profanities are heard.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Flashbacks show Amanda shooting up drugs and passed out under the influence. Three of the victims were once arrested for drug possession by Eric, who is later drugged by a masked assailant. A trap set for Xavier includes a pit full of IV needles, some of which end up sticking into Amanda. Eric smokes cigarettes. A joke is made about being drunk in college.
Other Negative Elements
Daniel lambastes his father, telling him he’s a better cop than he is a dad. We learn that Eric is a crooked cop who has frequently planted evidence on suspects to convict them and, according to Jigsaw, has gunned down innocent victims.
It’s hard to imagine topping the vile content of the original Saw, in which blood gushed as freely as water over Niagara Falls. Yet somehow—somehow!—the makers of this entirely unnecessary sequel have managed to do it. Even mainstream critics seem befuddled. “This is entertainment?” asks the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Hiltbrand. Newsweek’s John Anderson adds that Saw II “is so gratuitously, sadistically violent, and to such little end, that it finally falls over dead on the far side of obscene.”
Indeed, how filmmakers can justify celebrating such an onslaught of gore and violence is fundamentally baffling. Equally so is the willingness of people to pay money to see it. And yet, given this movie’s ending—and its boffo box-office earnings—it won’t be long before Saw III cuts its way through theaters. It's as if Jigsaw himself were behind the lens and is, as he puts it, “testing the fabric of human nature.”