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Despite A Valiant Effort, ‘Spiral: From the Book of Saw’ Falls Into Downward Spiral – Review

If it ain’t broke, make a sequel. Or better yet, make a franchise. Since its 2004 debut, Saw has become one of the most famous horror franchises. It has the perfect formula. The franchise found an audience that’s equally self-righteous and wrathful to thrill with tales of mystery and bloody poetic justice. The franchise’s latest installment, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, or just Spiral, is no different.

However, when you have an unlikely talent such as Chris Rock co-producing and co-writing with James Wan and Leigh Whannell, you don’t necessarily expect something different, you expect more.

I know this scene! (Courtesy of Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures)

Spiral takes on a timely, new form of its trademarked bloody poetic justice: police reform. It’s like they knew Black people would watch it as soon as they saw Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson in the trailer. After all, one of the few things scarier than a psychopath hiding behind a doll to torture people is the injustice Black and brown communities face at the hands of law enforcement who swore an oath to protect and serve them. Further wasting their talent, the writers make it so the protagonist is a Black cop who seems to think it’s only his department that’s dirty and only he can fix the issue that has been going on for over a century.

With a screenplay by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger, Spiral follows a hardened Detective Zeke Banks (Rock) working in the shady police department his father (Samuel L. Jackson) once headed. After an officer’s body is found at the scene of a crime orchestrated by a copycat Jigsaw, Banks leads the investigation to find the copycat and ultimately stop the killings.

If you’ve seen any of the Saw movies—or Se7en–you don’t have to ask what happens next. You just have to ask how and who. The answer is as much a circle as the movie’s title hints at.

A new mask for the new Jigsaw. (Courtesy of Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures)

Where the storytelling and obvious symbolism fall rather short of expectations, the performances do the job well. Rock plays this serious role with surprising confidence and emotion. His career in comedy has given him an acute sense of timing, charisma, and delivery that so many other actors seem to struggle with. He lets a few well-placed jokes fly, but they feel natural and don’t distract from his character or the story.

Joining Rock’s talent is Marisol Nichols, who comfortably conveys the authority and vulnerability it takes to play a captain, and Max Minghella, who mustered up the eagerness and innocence to play the rookie. Samuel L. Jackson plays Samuel L. Jackson.

It’s a spiral. Get it? (Courtesy of Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures)

Spiral is an exciting, perfectly dramatic movie for any fan of the Saw franchise, and it’s a nice treat for any fan of the horror genre as a whole. However, for a fan who has experienced the out-of-touch catastrophe that was Hollywood trying to confront a global pandemic and heightened racial tensions last year, Spiral is tiring.

If you’re not going to grant your audience an escape from real-world injustices, at least give them the truth. The truth is that justice will never come from one crazed individual with a vendetta. Karma is not justice. Change is justice. In both the real world and the franchise, this movie adds nothing and changes nothing.

If this movie was about food service workers and not cops, then maybe we would have ourselves a very compelling narrative.

Rating: 5/10

Spiral is playing in theaters now. No streaming options are currently available.

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