What exactly is Spiral? Is it a side-story to the Saw series? Is it a sequel to the Saw series? It definitely exists in the same universe, because we have a Jigsaw copy-cat killer on our hands. If you’re thinking that they’ve already done that in Saw, they have. This time around it’s a little bit more complicated than that though. We have a Jigsaw copycat killer going after corrupt cops in New York. The man on the case is Chris Rock‘s Detective Zeke Banks. He’s the son of former Chief of Police Marcus Banks, played by Samuel L. Jackson. These two gives the performances of the movie, that hold up everything from being a complete mess. The film also stars Max Minghella as Zeke’s new partner William Schenk. In addition to them we have Marisol Nichols as Captain Angie Garcia.
So why should you watch Spiral? Is it for the Saw superfan? It comes from the originators of the series, Mark Burg and Oren Koules. It’s directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and written by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger. This film feels a lot like Saw II, which makes sense, Bousman directed that film (and Saw III and Saw IV). I find that to be the second best of the series, so that’s a pretty favorable comparison. It’s a topical film with police violence dominating news these days. You have someone going after the corrupt cops who plague the precinct. It’s a pretty simple story that gets more complicated as it goes on. Pretty standard mystery/horror stuff.
But let’s dive into what really makes Spiral a decent watch, even for people who aren’t mega fans of the genre.
Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson Hold The Entire Film On Their Shoulders
It makes sense to say that the two “leads” of the film would hold it up. Chris Rock is a revelation here, and Samuel L. Jackson gives a fantastic performance with plenty of “motherfu**ers” thrown in. The material that both of them are given in the script is middling. It is. It’s simple cop drama stuff that they both take and make workable. This isn’t just some bland horror/mystery and Chris Rock’s performance is to thank for that. He lightens up a notably dark film. It’s not exactly action movie quips or standup jokes, but it’s just the way he delivers some of the lines. You can tell that Rock was improv’ing on set because his lines are some of the best in the film.
Jackson plays Zeke’s dad, and while he’s not the focus or the star, his scenes are all gold. Whether that’s a flashback showing the regret of getting his son involved in policing or the fury after seeing his son shot when backup doesn’t arrive. It’s classic Jackson and he taps into what made him one of the most iconic actors of our generation.
Max Minghella Is Another Highlight Of The Cast
For the classic archetype of the rookie cop with a grizzled vet, you’d think Max Minghella is just for the ride. Well, he kind of is, but he doesn’t just play the rookie cop and call it a day. He plays off Chris Rock’s dialogue well and makes you feel for his character. He’s in it for the policing, and is seemingly the only cop that Zeke can trust. He stands tall next to these two gigantic performances and the movie is better for it.
Outside of that however, is VERY standard cop movie affair. You kind of want those performances though in a movie like this. Too much nuance would take away from the mystery at hand. You also want to hate the corrupt cops that are getting the punishment in the film. So they’re not horrendous, but they don’t do anything special. Serpico, this is not.
The Torture Porn Addicts Might Be Disappointed
Being part of the Saw universe, you’d think it would share some of those qualities. It does, but it doesn’t go full bore into what made Saw jump the shark. It uses horrific body torture to further the plot, but it’s not the main event. So for the people looking for that kind of thing, you might be disappointed when the most horrific torture is in the first 10 minutes. The scares aren’t really here either, it’s not a jump scare type of movie. I commend it for that. Sometimes these types of films feel the need to include BS scares like that to make it worth seeing for horror hounds out there.
You go into this film for the plot, the mystery, and for some people, the kills are a nice side dish. I’m not a fan of that kind of horror, but it wasn’t overdone in this one. The narrative leads you through some twists and turns and has a pretty good red herring. By the end of it, all the clues left behind will make you feel a bit dumb, but it’s a nice mystery.
It’s just nothing that goes outside of the parameters of the genre. But that’s not a bad thing.
A Jaw-Dropping Ending
The phrase “jaw-dropping” is bandied about too much these days. This ending was on-par with the best of the series. It’s politically charged and it leaves an immediate impact. I won’t spoil it here, but the film ends abruptly and it makes it all that much better. The plot is wrapped up, and it feels very similar to the first film’s impact. You’re going to want to see this one with a room full of strangers on a Friday night at the theater. Hopefully that’ll be the case for most of you out there.
Overall Spiral is a film that doesn’t go too far beyond the series parameters, but it definitely finds some places that the Saw series hasn’t explored. It’s a reboot/sequel/series saver that guarantees that we haven’t seen the last of Saw. After so many movies and a failed reboot. this is the one that’ll likely revitalize the series. It encapsulates what made Saw successful in the first place while branching it’s own path.
I’m a big fan of side stories like this, that keep the essence of a series, but give it something extra to look at. Spiral does just that. For the fans of torture porn, you’ve got some of that to sink your teeth in here. Those scenes are bloody and wince-inducing. Chris Rock gives the performance of the film through it all.
Spiral releases in theaters this Friday, May 14th.
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