Eric (Donnie Wahlberg) is trapped in a pitch black bathroom with his leg chained to a pipe and only the light of a hand torch to see by. He manages to reach both the torch and the nearby pistol with the help of his boot, but the pistol is empty and he looks around for a way to get free, noticing with dread the saw next to him. He tries and fails to cut through the chain, then contemplates removing his foot, but can't face it. Then he hits upon another idea: break his ankle and slip the appendage from the shackle. This he does, and meanwhile the police are searching for him, but have no leads. His colleague Kerry (Dina Meyer) is at the scene of another twisted set up from the Jigsaw killer (Tobin Bell) where a man has been blown up in a sealed room, but she doesn't know exactly how deep into the plotting she will become...
After the success of twisty horror Saw, two sequels were ordered back to back, and this was the second of those, proving to be every bit the hit as well. It was scripted by the two men behind the original, Leigh Whannell and James Wan (on story duties), but if you were hoping for a return to ingenuity after the disappointing Saw II, then you should have prepared yourself for a letdown as there were very few surprises contained in this one. Even the big revelations at the end provoke little more than a shrug, but still the franchise marched its grim way forward, with a Saw IV ordered hot on the heels of this instalment.
For a change, the police play very little part this time around, with our best hope of tracking down Jigsaw dispatched with in the first fifteen minutes, indeed, this film seems to feature about five different beginnings leading to bumpy first half hour that struggles to settle. Eventually, we are offered the tale of a young doctor, Lynn (Bahar Soomekh), who is having marital problems and is kidnapped from work by Jigsaw's right hand woman, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). This is because the villain is dying from a brain tumour that he wants Lynn to operate on, but of course she has to be persuaded with a collar covered in explosives that will go off when Jigsaw's heart rate monitor flatlines. A tricky situation made more perilous by the fact that the instruments she's offered are more D.I.Y. than operating theatre, and Amanda is growing increasingly unhinged.
As all this is going on, Jigsaw has set up his own complex puzzle for grieving dad Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) to work out the frustrations he feels about his son's death and the lack of justice for him - it was an accident, after all, but Jeff wants someone to pay. He ends up in a maze faced with people who are in some way responsible, including possibly the most thankless role in 2000s horror, a woman hung up naked in a freezer (Debra McCabe is that brave actress). Jeff is somehow connected to the Lynn story, but how? He's also connected to Jigsaw, because no matter how he goes on about forgiveness the baddie and Jeff are both struggling to accept death, with Jigsaw facing his own and Jeff his son's. Fortunately, there aren't as many tedious speeches from the mastermind as there were in the first sequel, but it all seems so pointless, except as a money making exercise, that the best reaction is "so what?" Music by Charlie Clouser.