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  Spiral: From the Book of Saw Copycat Cop Killer
Year: 2021
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Stars: Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella, Marisol Nicholls, Dan Petronijevic, Richard Zeppieri, Patrick McManus, Ali Johnson, Zoie Palmer, Dylan Roberts, K.C. Collins, Edie Inksetter, Nazneen Contractor, Thomas Mitchell, Carvin Winans
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A carnival in the city, and a fireworks display to accompany it, what could be better than that? Well, there's always someone to spoil the party, and as a plain clothes police officer makes his way through the crowd, he is bumped by a man in a hat who proceeds to mug someone right in front of him. Immediately, the cop gives chase and finds the culprit has escaped down a ladder into the sewers, so reluctantly he follows until he sees him up ahead - but it's a dummy wearing that hat, his first hint that this is no ordinary crime. His second hint comes when he is rendered unconscious and awakens to find himself dangling over a subway line with his tongue in a makeshift vice...

Yes, Jigsaw was back, except he wasn't because if you knew anything about this series you would be aware he died ages back and had been propagating his ultra-judgemental form of rough justice from beyond the grave with the aid of a collection of disciples ever since. Spiral was nominally a reboot, except that a reboot had already occurred four years before but not really caught on with the public - Saw fans were a breed apart - therefore when comedian Chris Rock piped up that he was one of those self-same Saw fans, the usual franchise team, including director Darren Lynn Bousman, were happy to hear his ideas for working out how to make the series last a little longer.

Frequent screenwriters Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger were recruited once again to whip Rock's ideas into shape, and the result was a Saw movie that was not a million miles away from the others, except that the victims this time around were all police officers, specifically corrupt police officers, including our lead. Rock played Detective Zeke Banks, who has been ostracised by the others in his department for "ratting" on a bad apple colleague, that was, telling the truth about the man's illegality in an investigation, which marks Banks out as somebody we can potentially trust. Another aspect that does so is his propensity to launch into try-out routines from Rock's stand-up act.

Kicking off with a bit about Forrest Gump that was admittedly pretty funny, and for the first half at least Spiral came across as hewing close to a comedy thriller given the star was offered so much leeway to deliver the funnies. It did grow more serious as it went on, maybe a pity because Rock could be a very amusing man and to hear him quip in the face of horrible brutality would certainly have been a new direction for the films, but the more we find out about Zeke, the more we twig he is perhaps not as squeaky clean as we would like, and though his misdemeanours were well in his past, that's not going to trouble the uber-moralist like a Jigsaw follower. Nevertheless, it was good to see someone with proper movie star charisma lead a tawdry movie like this.

And perhaps even better to see Samuel L. Jackson playing his father, also making with the one-liners when he could, leaving an interesting tension between him and Rock to see who could dominate the movie. Jackson was an ex-police chief who has a bad choice in his past too - was there any cop here who had not made a bad choice, you may wonder, and the answer may well be the rookie sidekick essayed by Max Minghella whose innocence in the midst of these bent coppers was a shade too good to be true. But the fans will be wanting to know if the traps were up to snuff (pun intended), and in truth while they were difficult to escape from, it was more the case they were too difficult to escape from as there was no way the victims could humanly extricate themselves from, say, the pulling off fingers and electrocution trick, leaving their best bet someone rescuing them before it all went horribly wrong. Do you think that would happen? Ah, such optimism. Anyway, for a series that was samey, Spiral did distinguish itself, maybe not for the diehards, but for the newcomers or those who had ducked out along the way, it was a decent route back in. Music by Charlie Clouser.

[Spiral: From the Book of Saw is available on digital on August 9th, and on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD on August 16 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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