It is ironic that the first film back in cinemas would be one so obviously destined for Poundland, where a fiver will soon buy you a DVD of Spiral: From the Book of Saw, a bag of popcorn and three family-sized bottles of bleach.
Imagine being the man responsible for the worst Saw movie. That man is Chris Rock, who apparently met someone from Lionsgate at a wedding and pitched an idea for a Saw spinoff that appears to have been: “I should be in a Saw movie.” Nobody has ever looked more like they’re pretending to be in a film than Rock does here. It genuinely makes you appreciate Donnie Wahlberg.
Rock spends the entire movie either squinting as though trying to block out the mess he’s made, or workshopping bits of standup more torturous than any of the killer’s death traps. He plays a detective called Zeke, on the trail of a Jigsaw copycat (who sounds like Brian Thompson from Whatever Happened to Pizza at McDonald’s?) targeting corrupt cops. If that sounds like a setup for some contemporary social commentary, Spiral mangles that angle as horribly as Rock’s film career.
What about this is meant to be an update to the franchise? The elements (police, morality and torture) are the same but worse, a bit more cop-y but ultimately a copy (Darren Lynn Bousman is back in the director’s chair) that doesn’t even deliver any decent butchery contraptions. It does swap the classic Jigsaw puppet for a goofy-looking pig one, but the only snorts come from the audience.
No amount of Samuel L. Jackson waving a gun around yelling motherfucker (limited to one scene) can disguise the fact that Spiral doesn’t know how policing, filmmaking or human bodies work, though in one moment it does deliver the perfect metaphor for the movie’s part in the series: when Zeke peels the skin from a charred corpse to give it CPR. Everyone but Chris Rock knows it’s already dead. He’s only making it worse.