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Saw II

Review Written by: Will Penley
Film: A-
Video/Audio/Extras: A/A/B-

Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
Written by: Darren Lynn Bousman and Leigh Whannell
Produced by: Mark Burg, Gregg Hoffman and Oren Koules
Starring: Tobin Bell, Donnie Wahlberg, Erik Knudsen, Shawnee Smith, Franky G, Glenn Plummer, Dina Meyer, Beverley Mitchell
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Rent it

"Hello, Michael. I want to play a game. So far, in what could loosely be called your life, you've made a living watching others. Society would call you an informant -- a rat, a snitch. I call you unworthy of the body you possess and of the life that you've been given. Now we will see if you are willing to look inward, rather than outward, to give up the one thing you rely on in order to go on living. The device around your neck is a death mask. The mask is on a string timer. If you do not locate the key in time, the mask will close. Think of it like a Venus flytrap. What you're looking at right now is your own body, not more than two hours ago. Don't worry, you're sound asleep and can't feel a thing. Taking into account that you are at a great disadvantage here, I am going to give you a hint as to where I've hidden the key, so listen carefully. The hint is this...it's right before your eyes. How much blood will you shed to stay alive, Michael? Live or die. Make your choice."

After the breakout success of the original Saw, it wasn't but a few months later that Lions Gate commissioned a sequel. The screenplay was churned out extremely fast and the film went into its twenty-five day production very quickly. Saw II opened just a couple of days before Halloween (like the first film did) and in the first weekend alone it made back ten times its budget. Pretty decent to say the least. In fact as I'm writing this review, Saw III has been announced and they're probably nearly finished working out the screenplay. At this point, I'm just hoping that they don't ruin the series with a new installment each year. That's just not what the Saw series is supposed to be.

Beginning with the scene I transcribed at the beginning of the review, Saw II immediately prepares you for what's to come. This time around, the elusive Jigsaw killer (Tobin Bell) has trapped several people in a booby-trapped house that he has filled with deadly nerve gas. If they can't find a way out or an antidote for the gas within two hours, they will all be dead. Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) has been following the Jigsaw case for quite some time, but this time he has additional motivation to solve it: his son Daniel (Erik Knudsen) is one of the victims. As the group desperately tries to find a way to live, the detective plays a game of wits with Jigsaw, who he and his team have captured.

Like the original, Saw II is a wild experience and a great watch. However, I felt it didn't match up to the first in a few areas. Since there's so many characters in this one, there isn't much room for character development within the film's one and a half hour duration, unlike the original that took place, for the most part, in a single room with only two characters. As most of the people reading this know, the original Saw had a truly killer twist ending and they try their best to mimic that effect here. While this one's ending is fine, it just didn't suit me at all. Of course, I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it. Still, I have to give the film an "A-" because, flaws notwithstanding, this is a great movie.

When the original Saw was first released on DVD, the picture was less-than-perfect. However, Saw II looks great on its first release. The anamorphic widescreen transfer has almost no flaws present and the Dolby 5.1 EX track on the disc is equally good. An "A" for video and audio. Extras are a bit sparse the first time out, but what we have here is pretty good. First up is an audio commentary by director Darren Lynn Bousman and actors Donnie Wahlberg and Beverley Mitchell. The participants don't talk very much about production, but it's a fun track and worth a listen. "Jigsaw's Game" is a very short pre-release featurette that's very similar to "Sawed Off" from the original Saw disc.

"The Traps of Jigsaw" consists of a series of short behind-the-scenes featurettes that focus on Jigsaw's various contraptions featured throughout the film. "Bits & Pieces: The Props of Jigsaw" is more of the same kind of thing. A storyboard-to-screen feature allows you to compare the finished product to the film's original storyboards. Also included with this is a conceptual art gallery that gives us a look at some of the production art. Rounding out the disc is the original theatrical trailer for Saw II and trailers for other Lions Gate films. Extras get a "B-," and I'm kicking myself because I know a two-disc edition is right around the corner. There's one last thing I would like to mention about the DVD. On the main menu screen, the words "In Memoriam: Gregg Hoffman" can be found. By clicking on the red X that appears next to them, you can read the director's letter of dedication to the film's recently deceased producer.

Though the film is very good and this is a decent enough package, I would rent this one and wait for the two-disc edition for a purchase (actually, that's just my recommendation, as I already bought this).

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