Of course, “Spiral” opens with a trap. A cop sees a man snatch a purse from a woman and chases him into a tunnel, where he’s quickly chloroformed. He wakes up in a contraption obviously inspired by the now-deceased Jigsaw Killer, a man who liked to claim that he never actually murdered anyone, always giving them a way out of their predicament. In this case, the man is basically hanging by his tongue on a subway track. He’s informed by a figure in a pig costume (“Pigsaw”?) that the train will be there in two minutes and turn him into mush. He can literally pull himself free from the device, severing his tongue, but saving his life. It doesn’t end well, traumatizing a poor subway train driver for sure.
Detective Zeke Banks (Rock) and his new partner (Max Minghella) get the case, quickly learning that there’s a Jigsaw copycat in their midst. It turns out that Banks isn’t particularly well-liked in his own department because of some internal affairs issues of the past, and the killer this time decides to work his way through some of Zeke’s corrupt fellow officers, knocking them off in surprisingly uninspired ways. One would have hoped that Rock and his collaborators would have at least come up with some clever devices to reboot the franchise, but a machine that rips off a man’s fingers, for example, feels like something a drunk came up with at a bar after catching up with the franchise on HBO Max. Like most of the movie, the traps are more like contractual requirements, rarely creative in design or theme.
“Spiral” suffers from some pretty severe tonal problems too. Early on, Rock seems to be going for ‘80s cop drama dialogue with stuff that sounds almost like a parody of cop-on-the-edge movies, and he has a few comedic exchanges with his new partner that hint at a very different film than what this becomes when all of that is dropped for Bousman’s bland intense style. The worst thing is that Bousman has no idea how to build tension. There’s zero rising action here. It’s a film that opens with a man being turned into a bloody water balloon and stays at about that level throughout, even as it’s reaching its incredibly predictable and dull final reveals. Listen, no one needs a “Saw” movie to be completely logically sound, but at least don’t treat your viewers like idiots, and this movie fails that test. In fact, it might have been better if the twists here were even more off the rails. As is, it’s a combination of “huh” and “meh.” The first movie made waves with its final scenes. This one won’t at all.
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