As President Obama continues the Democrat’s sisyphean quest for Health Care reform, perhaps he can take some measure of comfort from the fact that – in the same weekend wherein he learned that Joe Lieberman plans to vote with the Republicans against the Public Option; we now learn that he at least has the support of one John Kramer, aka “Jigsaw,” the serial-killer protagonist of the “Saw” movies.
“Saw 6,” the most recent episode, opens with the Jigsaw-mandated self-imolation of two corrupt mortage loan officers, then for the main course serves up some “git th’ bastard!!!!” torment of a heartless insurance company boss and, for good measure, the group of eeeeeevil overly-slick MBA brats who serve as his main team. Yes, the slowly-petering-out gorefest franchise has officially taken one of genre-film’s classic first-steps toward oblivion: The socially-relevant “message” installment. Presumably, Jigsaw (or, rather, Jigsaw’s posthumous minions) will battle Climate Change by stapling a polluting CEO’s mouth to an exhaust pipe in Part 7; or feeding Wall Street derivatives-traders’ intestines through a stock-ticker in Part 8.
Okay, for what it’s worth marrying the standard outline of the post-Part-3 “Saw” movies to this particular cause of the month makes a certain amount of sense: Jigsaw is/was a terminal cancer patient who forces victims who don’t “appreciate” their lives to endure gruesome endurance tests to teach them a lesson. Still, the risk of merging a franchise like this to a topical issue is always a matter of elevation versus deflation: If you’re going to insert a serious socio-political argument – in this case the need for healthcare reform – into something as inherently silly as “Saw,” the franchise must rise to meet the import of the issue OR the issue must become silly to mee the franchise. Those wondering which version has happened more often are advised to go watch “Superman 4: The Quest For Peace” again.
See, the “Saw” movies have always had a certain “preachy” quality as part of their hook: People struggle their way through torture traps while Jigsaw grumbles a narration largely made up on his own warped philosophy on life and death. THAT basically works, since Jigsaw’s ramblings (and Tobin Bell’s by-now iconic performance) matches up with the high-grade-schlock asthetic of the films-proper. Simply swapping that dialogue out with bumper-sticker bullet-points about insurance reform (Bell’s vocals work overtime to make sure we never get tired of hearing him growl the word “policy”) but keeping the actual movie around it as goofy as ever turns the whole thing into unintended comedy… a straight-faced version of those SNL “Weekend Update” bits where an ironically-appropriate fictional character delivers an editorial (“and now here with an opinion on gun control, Mr. Yosemite Sam.”)
At the very least, even though it’s now functional only as a kind of unwittingly-hillarious self-parody, it’s at least more watchable on a technical level than the last two. If nothing else, hopefully this newfound technical acumen can carry through all the way to “Saw 10″… wherein, I imagine, Jigsaw will do battle against offshore drilling.