Saw II ironically falls into the all too common trap of "more is better". Wan has departed. Bousman enters. Marky Mark Wahlberg sent in his brother. And a tantalising psychological thriller turns into an "escape room" fiasco. Audiences lapped up this sequel like a demonic kitten drinking the blood of its victims. Yet a consequence of the growing popularity meant that a repetitive structure for the franchise had just been formulated, and it's not great. A detective is enveloped in a game to which his son is stuck in a house, filled with traps of course, with random strangers. He must confront "Jigsaw" to try and save his son before it's too late.
For those of you that wanted gore, devious traps and an expendable cast. Well, happy birthday, because you got them. The intricate design of Kramer's contraptions certainly had me wincing on occasion. Whether it be an individual thrown into a hole filled with dirty syringes or an unsuspecting victim having a bullet penetrate his eye. These devices, ranging from classic booby traps to mechanically engineered contraptions, hold enough credibility and blood-curdling gore to make them interesting.
The story itself, with both Bousman and Whannell writing (dream team they are not!), is functional and greatly explores the antagonistic "Jigsaw" killer with plenty of depth, giving Bell the opportunity for a menacing performance. If only he didn't whisper everything, I might've been able to hear him. There's timers, a tormenting musical score and sufficient screaming to gradually ramp up the tension. But when these characters, both the victims and detectives, are so incomprehensibly dumb, it loses all intelligence that the script thinks it has.
Examples. Victims failing to understand the obvious literary purpose of "numbers in the back of your mind" throughout the entire film. One stupid victim works it out, and resorts to killing everyone instead of politely asking "can I have a look at your head?". He then proceeds to cut a big chunk of skin off instead of asking someone "hey, how you doing? Can you please have a look at my head for me? Thank you in advance!". Inept detective doesn't get off lightly either. For someone who knows they shouldn't listen to Kramer, considering how meticulous he is, he essentially does everything a detective shouldn't. "I can show you where the house is", really!? Are you telling me you are going to believe him now after two hours! Urgh. This is just the tip of the bloody iceberg. So many stupid character decisions.
Oh, and the acting isn't particularly fantastic either. It's not bad, but the absurd amount of jump cuts and flashy editing (thank you Greutert, once again...) diminishes most scenes with dialogue. Don't forget about the obligatory final plot twist! Not as effective as its predecessor, but functional nonetheless. I should've guessed it, but I was dumb. Much like these characters ey?
Saw II is blunted by the greatness of the original. An involving first half unfortunately crumbles into a messy second half that rapidly identified several plot points that are sure to be repeated in the sequels. It's a trap!