Saw 5

Italy’s famed operas have indirectly influenced the horror genre.  Filled with passionate drive and musical dramas the early stage productions were imbedded with plenty of Grand Guignol nastiness.  Scenes of blood-letting and torture were acted out for the amusement of paying audiences who today get to see them projected onto cinema screens.  Like Halloween’s yearly arrival the Saw franchise makes its annual sojourn with a plot owing much to the Italian theatre of the macabre.
Long since dead, serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) still wreaks terror on the living.  Having mentored burnt-out cop Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) to continue his carnage, Jigsaw has created a more than willing disciple.  When police colleague agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) discovers Hoffman’s secret however, all hell breaks loose.  Eager to continue his evil unabated, Hoffman hatches an insidious plan showing his dangerous intellect more than matches Jigsaw’s sinister mind.
Whatever can be said about this series, marks should be given for persistence.  In several respects this entry mirrors that of Friday the 13th’s fifth outing.  Having dispatched its chief monster, it originally attempted to handover the killer’s legacy to someone else.  Whilst that film handled it badly, Saw 5 succeeds due to a decent cast and genuine character development.  Using flashbacks and answering unresolved questions from previous instalments, Saw 5 is a deceptive sequel only adding a miniscule amount of new material to the established mythology.  This in turn leaves unanswered moments from this film to be revealed in the next sequel, a clever tactic in ensuring fans come back yet again.
Although filled with grisly set pieces for which the films have become infamous, these have been toned down in favour of the victims using their wits to survive. Fitting in well with the theme of how far someone would go to survive, the cast do well amongst the deadly traps.  Tobin Bell’s charismatic presence again elevates proceedings, with Mandylor’s psychotic follower showing some good villainous potential.  Long-term fans should enjoy the cameos from almost everyone who has appeared in the films to date, with this ‘greatest hits’ style story perhaps signalling a fresh start for the series.
The Saw films have been slammed and praised in equal measures with almost no room for a middle ground.  Despite not being particularly scary, Saw 5 does at least tries something new and doesn’t descend into pure schlock like previous movies.  Currently in the works Saw 6 should be rearing its head this time next year showing that a golden egg laying goose never gets time off for very bad behaviour.
Rating out of 10:  5 

Max Payne

Hollywood currently seems to like their heroes portrayed as brooding vigilantes.  Furrowing brows and whispering deadly ideals with raspy voices, this new heroic breed has increased in popularity.  Mark Wahlberg does a good job as a scowling avenger battling evil-doers in this video game adaptation.  Sadly like most in the genre, Max Payne becomes yet another addition to the dark dreams of Nintendo nightmares.
Policeman Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is out for revenge. Still seething over the death of his wife and child six months previously, he roams the streets looking for their killers.  On his travels he meets Natasha (Olga Kurylenko) and her sister Mona (Mila Kunis).  Both women provide him with clues leading to a pharmaceutical company for which his wife used to work.  To his horror, Max discovers the company does more than cure people of their ills uncovering an almost supernatural conspiracy threatening to tip the world into an astral Armageddon.
Like a computer’s cut and paste function, Max Payne shamelessly pieces together a homage to more memorable films.  Starting as an urban Dirty Harry clone, events soon twist into Die Hard meets the Matrix.  This concoction of styles works against what on paper sounds like a good idea.  The hard-boiled detective investigation with a smattering of supernatural themes starts well although things gradually turn into a murky mess.  Once again another video to movie translation fails due to its inability to stick to one genre, with a story-line content in accommodating the gunplay instead of vice versa.
Bursting with far too many characters, it also suffers from unfocussed direction and poor plot construction.  Scenes potentially leading to bigger clues reach dead ends, with evidence actually discovered defying any reasonable logic. Whilst Max Payne is meant to be a fantasy, some element of realism has to be present in order for the viewer to be involved.  Despite the best efforts of the actors, who are all quite good, the multitude of personalities Max encounters puts too much pressure on a story needing to gain traction.  Its only saving graces are its amazing photography and pounding soundtrack putting audiences right in the thick of the well staged action sequences.
Video games have come a long way from the days of Space Invaders and Pacman.  Although one of the classic gaming pioneers, Space Invaders ironically has yet to be granted the celluloid treatment.  It would perhaps be better than this effort proving movies based on games have yet to rise above being Atari atrocities.
Rating out of 10:  2