Saw 2

Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), is a shady cop who is having trouble relating to his teenage son Daniel. Eric receives a call to a crime scene where someone has been brutally murdered by ‘The Jigsaw Killer’ (Tobin Bell). This killer takes great delight in playing games with his victims, to see if they really value their life by trying to survive one of his elaborate traps. When Eric’s son goes missing, he fears the worst and his suspicions are confirmed when the killer contacts him and reveals that his son is trapped in a maze along with 8 other people. The killer wants to see if Eric loves his son as much as he says he does, and to see how far he will go to save the other people as well. What follows is a gory game of cat and mouse, in which not everyone has a chance of survival.Donnie Wahlberg is slowly building up a list of acting credits after his days of fame as a member of 80s band, New Kids On The Block. Wahlberg does his best to portray a cop who is being punished for his past deeds, and tries to redeem himself. As most of his scenes are against Tobin Bell, who has the better role of the Jigsaw Killer, Wahlberg does come unstuck in places as Bell is clearly the better actor of the two. The part of Eric needed someone a bit older than Wahlberg, as he seems to be a bit too young to be a father of a nearly fully grown son. As mentioned, Tobin Bell does a very good job as the killer who is terminally ill and wants to ‘enjoy’ a final game with his victims. Bell convinces as someone who wants to use psychological as well as physical terror on his victims, and his scenes bring much menace, which liven proceedings considerably. The rest of the cast do their best to portray helpless victims - with varying degrees of success.

The first ‘Saw’ film was only released a year ago and it may have been expected that this sequel would have just been a slap dash affair which just copied the first film’s plot - as is the case of a lot of rushed sequels. Surprisingly this film is actually better than the first, because the plot is more coherent and the characters are more interesting. The story takes its time to get to know the characters, which allows the audience to invest some empathy towards them. There are more surprising twists in this film which keeps audiences on their toes, along with the expected gory thrills. Overall, the acting is better than the first film, with the actors at least attempting to inject some personality to their roles, which wasn’t evident in the previous film. The scenes of the group in the maze trying to work together are well done.

‘Saw 2′ manages to add character development to its expected dosage of thrills, and for the most part, succeeds. While this isn’t exactly the scariest film of the year, it does actually have a few genuine scares in it, plus some psychological elements which makes the film more interesting. The film retains the dark grungy look from the previous chapter, which adds to its success. Already, ‘Saw 2′ has become a big hit which has led to the announcement that a third film is in the works. Hopefully that one will continue to build on the improved story telling of this one.

Rating out of 10: 7

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The Constant Gardner

Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), is a British diplomat who has been posted to Kenya. He is enjoying a new found lease of life due to his recent marriage to Tessa (Rachel Weisz). However, Tessa is an activist who campaigns against illegal drug experimentation against African citizens, most notably with patients with the AIDS virus. Whilst travelling to an African village, she and her fellow activist partner Arnold, are both murdered, seemingly at random. Justin is consumed by grief and vengeance, and wants to find out the truth about his wife’s murder. What he then discovers is a conspiracy that may involve a high ranking official (Bill Nighy), and one of his closest friends Sandy (Danny Huston). Justin risks his life and those around him to find out the truth.

Ralph Fiennes gives a very subtle and restrained performance as Justin, a man who loves his wife, even when he finds out certain things he never knew about her after her death. Fiennes has always managed to display a great emotional range in most of the characters he has played, and he certainly makes his part in this film, a multi-faceted one. Rachel Weisz also does excellent work as the wife who hasn’t told Justin everything about her, and who fights for what she believes in, even though it eventually costs her life. The role of Tessa is one that requires the actor to display a dangerous edge, but also having an ‘innocence’ to her, which allows Justin and the audience to care for her character. Weisz is the perfect actress for this and this is one of the better roles she has played. Danny Huston as Justin’s friend is very good, playing a flawed character who secretly loves Tessa. Bill Nighy and Pete Postlethwaite are both excellent veteran actors and give their usual solid performances.

‘The Constant Gardner’ is based upon a John Le Carre novel. Le Carre’s works have enjoyed great success on television over the years, but cinematic outings of his works have been few and far between. The plot from his novel has been updated slightly to include references to the Iraq War, which gives the film a more ‘current’ edge. Le Carre’s stories have mostly had characters look seemingly innocent at first, but slowly their true selves are exposed and their deception is found out. While this film isn’t a spy story that Le Carre is famous for, it does display a lot of the elements that have made his novels such successes. The way the impoverished Africans are exploited by the drug companies is both disturbing but interesting at the same time. How greed and the chase for cornering the drug market is explored here, and the fight by the activists for justice is one which the audience can’t help but be involved with.

This is a strongly written film, with perhaps a few slow patches which drags the film out more than it needs to. The acting is consistently good, all performed with relish by an excellent cast. The cinematography of the various African villages are very well handled, and are done in a ‘documentary style’, which makes the audience feel a part of the action. Not exactly an action spy-fest that people may be expecting, but nevertheless, an interesting and thought provoking account of a journey taken by a group of people wanting to make a difference.

Rating out of 10: 7