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THIS REVIEW DEALS WITH GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AND GRAPHIC SEXUAL CONTENT. IT IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.

MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Horror
Cast
Tobin Bell as Jigsaw; Shawnee Smith as Amanda; Angus Macfadyen as Jeff; Bahar Soomekh as Lynn
Director
Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II)
Distributor
Lionsgate
Reviewer
Steven Isaac
Saw III

Saw III

So many people to torture, maim and kill. So little time. Jigsaw is on his deathbed in the third Saw movie. But he's determined to see his final "test" through to the end before he succumbs to the same fate he's insured for so many. So he arranges for Lynn, an ER trauma physician, to be abducted and brought to him.

This is Jigsaw we're talking about here, so everything has to be a life-and-death game. Lynn's "game" consists of her trying to keep the psychopath alive through a harrowing brain surgery. If she doesn't, the explosive collar that's been locked around her neck—which is connected to his heart-rate monitor—will go bang.

Meanwhile, Jeff, the subject of Jigsaw's final test, participates in a series of grotesque challenges in the dark reaches of the killer's cavernous, torture-chamber "facility." Why? According to Jigsaw, it's to give Jeff the opportunity to either get back at or forgive a series of individuals involved in his young son's accidental death (he's hit by a car) years earlier.

Jigsaw's apprentice, Amanda, oversees Jeff's misfortunes.

Positive Elements

Jigsaw puts a lot of emphasis on forgiveness. As he did in the first two movie installments (Saw and Saw II), he claims again here that the reason he tortures people and makes them face death is to teach them how to "live again." He insists he wants them to forgive those who have wronged them (including himself) in order to regain their joy for living.

It pains me to even write such words of praise in the context of a Saw review, and I'll take them all back in my "Conclusion." Besides, as noted in our review of Saw II, "What Jigsaw never mentions is that few subjects seem to survive these object lessons—which, in any sane person’s mind, defeats the purpose." I'll add to that here that many of Saw III's victims are ancillary to Jigsaw's main game. He merely—and callously—uses their deaths to facilitate Jeff's test.

In one of the games, a judge sacrifices his own life to try to save the life of a stranger. Before he dies he instructs Jeff, "Vengeance never solves anything. It only makes the pain greater." Whether it's because she desires to do so or she's afraid for her own life, Lynn does everything possible to administer medical attention to Jigsaw. Brief images allude to the fact that the police are doing their best to track down Jigsaw.

Spiritual Content

"You can sentence his soul to hell, or you can forgive," Jigsaw says to Jeff. And he calls the human body a "miraculous creation."

Sexual Content

It's impossible to separate the sexual content from the violent content in Saw III. A nude woman is seen (from head to toe, front and back) hanging by her wrists in a walk-in freezer. While nothing about the abominable events that happen next is sexual, per se, the filmmakers' abuse of her in this way not only degrades and dehumanizes her, but also objectifies her in a horrifically elongated scene in which the camera keeps coming back for more.

Another woman wearing almost nothing except the instrument of torture she's connected to has her chest ripped open and splayed out by metal hooks. A man in the same condition is forced to rip thick metal rings out of various parts of his body.

A quick head shot reveals Lynn in bed with a man after cheating on her husband. (Jigsaw remarks upon her willingness to give herself away to strangers.)

Violent Content

Saw III opens with quick vignettes of two people dying due to Amanda's efforts to live up to Jigsaw's reputation. They have very little to do with the rest of the story, so it's almost as if the filmmakers are offering up tasty appetizers to perk up bloodthirsty moviegoers' palates.

And indeed, blood and gore, pain and death are worshiped here. Choruses of screams serve as the soundtrack. Limbs are severed. Bones are crushed. Bodies are hewn. Heads are blown apart. All the bloody results are shown with brutal clarity. Between flashbacks to previous torture scenes in the first two films and an obsessive dedication to delivering new material, it's a wonder the film didn't run three hours straight.

The woman in the freezer dies as she's slowly encrusted with ice which forms from water that's sprayed onto her. A man nearly drowns in the "juice" generated by a machine pulverizing animal carcasses. Another's head is blasted half off with a shotgun. Acid eats into a police detective's hand when she's forced to fish a key out of it. Spread-eagled on a rack of sorts, Jeff's primary "opponent" in his game screams and writhes as his arms and legs and finally his head are slowly twisted off his body. Two women are shot. Both gush blood. A man's throat is ripped open with a circular saw. Another chops off his own appendages. Amanda suffocates a man with plastic. She and another victim battle it out with such implements of destruction as metal poles. She repeatedly stomps on the stump of his severed leg. Kidnappings and imprisonments include that of a young girl.

Operating on Jigsaw, Lynn cuts and then pulls back his scalp with a pair of pliers. Then she uses a power drill to puncture his skull. And finally a rotary saw to cut out a square. The camera never blinks. But Lynn has to—to keep the blood from blinding her. Jigsaw throws up and bleeds from his mouth during a long sequence in which he convulses and nearly dies

Mutilating herself, Amanda uses a large knife to cut long gashes into the inside of her thigh. Lynn shoots holes through a door while trying to kill her abductors.

If Saw III proves anything, then, it is that there is no end to creative and imaginative evil. And there is no end to the ways in which movies can show people being mangled, lacerated, dissected, brutalized ... and murdered.

Crude or Profane Language

Between 30 and 40 f-words are joined by a handful of s-words and an abuse of Christ's name. God's name is also interjected a half-dozen times. The most obscene, derogatory terms possible for women are hurled with aplomb.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Lynn takes a prescription bottle out of her locker at the hospital. And Jigsaw reminds her later that she hasn't been able to cope with life without her antidepressants.

In a flashback, Jigsaw fakes his own death. To make the scene convincing, he injects himself with a drug he tells Amanda will slow his heart rate and relax his muscles.

Conclusion

Commingling the message of forgiveness with endless scenes of torture and death—in the way all of the Saw movies do—is at best schizophrenic, and at worst diabolical. Insisting that he wants to pass on to Amanda "the honor of continuing my life's work," Jigsaw self-righteously reprimands her for constructing games that are impossible (rather than just implausible) to win. After all, he reasons, he's been trying to help people all these years. She's been murdering them. "I don't condone murder," he intones. "I despise murderers."

Not that the script plays fair with how people react to his life's work, either. When Jeff is confronted with the woman in the freezer, for instance, his first instinct is to stand and lecture her about her not helping his son when he was hit by the car. That makes him a monster of the same hideous stripe as Jigsaw. It's a colossally inhuman response. Face-to-face with a woman in jeopardy of imminent death, he's concerned about getting in his two cents worth. Ugh.

From that point on, it's impossible to care much if this fictional beast of a man lives or dies—or even if he's destined to take over for Jigsaw in Saw IV. It's all irrelevant since now it's just monster vs. monster, winner kills all.

"Lies!" Amanda screams in the film's gruesome and grueling climax. "[Lynn] hasn't changed, because nobody f---ing changes. Nobody is reborn." These Saw movies certainly don't. And they certainly aren't.

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