Not even Chris Rock can save this torture porn genre.
Between 2004 and 2010, the “Saw” franchise has been a Halloween tradition with guilty people being tortured by a figure by the alias Jigsaw. In 2017, they made another one called “Jigsaw,” which I skipped, and now, originally aimed for last year and now pushed to this year (given the COVID-19 circumstances), we have “Spiral,” which stars Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson and still offers even more gruesome sequences.
The carnage, this time, includes mutilated tongues and fingers, skinned bodies, broken glass, hot oil, and electricity. Unless you’re a hardcore fan of this torture porn genre, you’re gonna be repulsed by those sequences. The minute I saw that tongue being tortured, I was disturbed, and wanted to look away, but I couldn’t. And of course, I’m probably going to get a comment saying: “What did you expect? It’s a “Saw” movie, and if you don’t like this franchise, why did you go see it anyway?”
My response: I just wanted to see if Rock could do anything about this franchise.”
You know what? “Spiral” is essential just a remake of the first movie, because we have detectives played by big names, a serial killer copying Jigsaw’s legacy, and all the blood and gore required.
Rock plays Detective Zeke Banks, who is the black sheep of his precinct for ratting out a dirty cop, and also the former police chief’s (Jackson) son. His partner and best friend gets slaughtered for lying on the witness stand, and as much as he wants to handle the case on his own, he is assigned a rookie partner (Max Minghella) to investigate the murders. It’s not Jigsaw, because, obviously, he’s dead. It’s a man copying his legacy leaving red spiral symbols, wearing a pig mask with a lowered Kermit the Frog voice, and leaving Zeke tapes and clues about his victims. And most of them are dirty cops. You think they’re good in their introductions, but the villain reveals to them as wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Rock is also the executive producer on “Spiral.” Now, I can understand that the actor wants to take on different roles, after seeing him in “Top Five,” in which he played a comedian who didn’t want audiences to just see him as a franchise character. In this movie, he does a good job at using his anger and poetry to express the main protagonist, while sneaking in some humor.
But he sells himself short by having a mean streak. Why couldn’t the character get more sympathy for his reality? Why does he always have to argue with people and his pop? Why couldn’t Rock and Jackson work together well? This movie has so many good ideas, but it has to rely on the genre’s rules. Blood has to be spread, the killer has to get away, and above all, it can’t have a happy ending.
When Rock is on screen, he’s watchable, but when we get to the torture porn, we want to cover our eyes. Who wants to see people choosing between their tongues and their lives? Only fans of the genre would. At least I think so, because this has a polarized reaction from the crowd and critics. I’m sure “Spiral” will reach the Number 1 spot at the weekend box office, as the other “Saw” movies did, but I’m also sure you might have the reaction as I did. If not, then we have a lot to talk about.