REVIEW: ‘Spiral’ is a solid renewal for the ‘Saw’ universe

Not sure why the full title of this film was “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” when “Saw” was never a book, but I digress.

Chris Rock stars as Detective Zeke Banks in “Spiral.” A longtime investigator, Zeke doesn’t particularly get along with the rest of the police force and likes to work alone. This is mainly because others in the department are dirty cops.

When a new investigation regarding the death of an officer is launched, though, Zeke reluctantly teams up with a rookie detective, William (Max Minghella). The two soon come to the realization that the officer was killed in some kind of trap, and later learn that the person responsible is a copycat of John Kramer, who was known as the Jigsaw Killer.

While “Jigsaw” came out in 2017, the “Saw” franchise feels like it truly came to an end with the seventh movie in 2010, which was called “The Final Chapter.” More than a decade later, the series has made another attempt at a comeback, and this one was alright.

“Sprial” had a welcome change of pace. While many of the previous films seemed to be a group of characters making it through several traps, such as “Saw II” and “Saw VI,” “Spiral” is much more centered on a detective procedural.,

It’s not the most original route, but the series had become a bit too over the top, so going back to a more straightforward approach kept things grounded, making it easier for an audience to buy into the mystery solving element. Sure, there are familiar elements here, but tropes like the rookie cop working a big case with an experience detective and an officer having to overcome a department with its share of issues is fairly well executed for a horror film.

spiralblog
Courtesy Lionsgate.

It’s entertaining riding along with Zeke and William as they investigate these murders and anticipating the next death. It also helps that the film doesn’t overstay its welcome, having a tight 90-minute runtime.

Gore fans should be somewhat happy, but what’s featured here doesn’t get to the level of some of the others in the franchise. Some of the traps are simply more thrilling than others.

The final trap was especially a bit of a let down and is also one of a few reasons the film doesn’t fully stick the landing with the ending.

As for the acting, having Rock in the movie was a positive choice. He certainly has a good screen presence and his comedic ability makes some of the usual cop-banter fairly funny. He makes the character Zeke work.

The rest of the police force is fairly forgettable, though. Most of the supporting cast are just typical corrupt cops, with no varying degrees between them. Samuel L. Jackson is also underutilized.

However, despite its flaws, “Spiral” has enough good going on to push it above average. Rock’s performance, the enjoyable detective narrative and a few good traps do manage to breathe some new life into a series that had become stale. 3.25 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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