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Lions Gate presents
Saw (2004)

"Congratulations. You are still alive. Most people are so ungrateful to be alive. But not you. Not anymore"
- The Jigsaw Killer

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: March 10, 2005

Stars: Cary Elwes, Danny Glvoer, Monica Potter
Other Stars: Leigh Wannel, Tobin Bell
Director: James Wan

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: R for language, strong violence, gore, and brief drug use
Run Time: 01h:39m:57s
Release Date: February 15, 2005
UPC: 031398165415
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B D+A-B+ C+

DVD Review

The premise for Saw is fascinating at first listen, a serial killer finds a way to prey on his victims by kidnapping them and placing them in situations that they must escape or puzzles that they must solve or they will die. For instance, a woman awakens with a rather large apparatus over her head and in order to get the apparatus off the victim must find a key in the body of her dead friend before the timer expires and splits her head in half. Gruesome? Yes. Original? Yes. Done more so for shock value that cinematic reward? Maybe more than a little.

The central problem with James Wan's Saw is that while crafting an effective first and second act with intriguing visuals production design, he fails to develop his characters enough for us to care about what happens to them. This gruesome thriller works decently when Wan centers the story on our two protagonists locked in a dank and disturbing restroom, but when he exits the unfriendly confines and explores other aspects of the tattered story, the momentarily gripping narrative is lost.

Locked in this public restroom from hell is a doctor (Elwes), happily married to a loving wife (Potter) with a young child, and a photographer (Wannell) who has done nothing that he knows of to bring himself to this horrible place. They are victims of the "Jigsaw Killer" and through a series of clues found in and around the room, they discover that they are not only being watched but that each knows a secret about the other that could change everything. Throw into this a subplot about two cops (Glover and Leung) chasing the killer and you have Saw.

Had Wan and fellow screenwriter Wannell made the film about simply either the pair being trapped in the restroom the entire time or had they chose to dedicate the entire film to the pursuit of the killer, the film may have worked better. Instead, they land short of making Saw the great film it could have been. The script bounces back and forth between the restroom and our cops on the killer's trail, but there never seems to be a balance, and the film spends too much time on how these two characters got into the room as opposed to what they did to deserve being there.

As a director Wan is almost as inept as he is at screenwriting—he directs the film with the understated nuance of a heavy metal music video. Shot entirely at night, we learn through the features on the DVD that this was done because there was not enough money to shoot in sunlight. The ending also suffers from poor plotting as a twist that arrives is admittedly shocking, but falls apart when you think about it more in depth after the credits roll.

Since Saw would be bad even if it had been populated with superstars, so it reaches an all-time low with the performances that Wan elicits from his cast. Elwes gives what is possibly the worst performance of his suspect career with work here that is so unbearable in its false distress that when I saw it at the theater there were more laughs than gasps during a certain scene. Others are as bad or worse, with the lowest point being Danny Glover in an absolutely ridiculous subplot late in the story that drags the film to new depths.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Saw is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that does a fine job of recreating the effectively moody and dark look of the film. The transfer boasts some rich and deep colors; the restroom scenes are filmed with a hint of green that comes off well thanks to the great sharpness and detail. There are no instances of edge enhancement but there is a slight amount of grain present.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 6.1 mixes for Saw are two of the better to have come along so far this year with an effectively creepy sound design that helps to add mood and dread to the film. The rear speakers are almost constantly alive with ambient sounds or effects, and the heavy metal score comes off very well. Dialogue is crisp and clear without distortion, while the left and right speakers do a great job filling out the soundfield.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by James Wan, Leigh Wannel
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Fear Factory Bite the Hand That Bleeds music video
Extras Review: The most notable extra feature is an audio commentary by Wannell and Wan that covers nearly everything you could ever possibly wish to know about Saw from funding to shooting the film in a quick 18 days, and it is a very enjoyable listen. The two get along great and it is admittedly fantastic to learn about all of the little things that went into the making of the film even though I am less than fond of the film itself.

That said, the other extras will pale in comparison. We get a three-minute look at the making of the film as well as a video by Fear Factory for their song Bite the Hand That Bleeds You, and finally the theatrical trailer and four television spots.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Saw is a film with grand ambitions that fails to offer pleasing results, but will likely thrive on video as either an essential ingredient of bad movie night at your house or as a perennial staple on late-night cable television.


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