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3-D or not 3-D, seen one Saw, you’ve seen ’em all; Inside Job is a doc that rocks

by Mark Burger

Blood and guts figure prominently in Saw 3-D, the seventh(!) in the immensely profitable horror series whose success helped inspire the term “torture porn” in describing its grisly tone. Much as the slasher film became its own sub-genre in the 1980s, so too has torture porn become one in the new millennium.

Once more, the film finds a succession of unfortunate folk who fall prey to murderous contraptions created by the malevolent mind of John Kramer, AKA “Jigsaw” (Tobin Bell), the savage serial killer who’s never at a loss for more victims — most of whom seem to deserve their dire fates.

Just because it’s being billed as “The Final Chapter,” it’s hardly inconceivable that the Saw film series could continue. Both the original Friday the 13 th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises touted final installments, only to continue with more sequels and, more recently, full-blown remakes. (The abundance of new ideas in Hollywood is truly staggering, isn’t it?) Although the character died in the third film, Bell returns to his signature role as Jigsaw, the maestro of the onscreen mayhem, but despite his top billing Bell’s role is mostly voiceover work. This may be a record for the least amount of actual time onscreen by a topbilled actor in any film. He’s not necessarily phoning it in, but close.

Back also are Costas Mandylor as Hoffman, the police detective who has assumed Jigsaw’s murderous mantle, and Betsy Russell as Jigsaw’s widow, who may have a few tricks up her sleeve. Cary Elwes, who starred in the original Saw in 2004, reprises his role as Dr. Gordon, who has evidently survived his earlier predicament. What’s he doing here? No points for guessing….

The ostensible leading man in Saw 3-D is Sean Patrick Flanery’s best-selling author Bobby, who claims to have survived a previous encounter with Jigsaw and then has the dubious opportunity to try and survive a new one.

More time is spent concocting the lethal gizmos that do Jigsaw’s dirty work than developing the characters (both new and old), who are essentially fodder for foul play. It’s not wise to get too attached to them, given how most of them end up (badly, to be sure.)

The film’s victims are shot, stabbed, crushed, incinerated and otherwise treated to a series of sadistic indignities. There’s a lot of screaming and shouting, and this time out the gore is lovingly showcased in 3-D. (This may be the only dimension the film boasts.)

In a roundabout way, however, Saw 3-D does bring the story full circle — not a moment too soon, although perhaps a few movies too late — and the high gore quotient indicates that the makers know their audience, and what it wants in a Saw film. It isn’t likely to win new converts to the series, nor is it really meant to.

Is this the end of Saw? Don’t count on it.

Producer/director Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job (opening Friday) is an excellent documentary that infuriates (in a good way) and enlightens (in a great way). In telling the circumstances leading up to and immediately following the US Government’s 2008 bailout of several important financial institutions, Ferguson has fashioned a welldeserved cry of outrage whose repercussions resonate to this day.

Ferguson does a laudable job in distilling the financial jargon to some semblance of the overall issue’s essence. Inside Job is depicted (explained might be a better word) in concise, easy-to-understand terms that don’t lapse into a textbook history lesson. Matt Damon supplies the narration, while Ferguson trots out a succession of politicians, lobbyists, financial experts and reporters and the like to bear out his claims. It’s also very interesting to see who declined to be interview, which Ferguson duly notes as well.

It’s not as if the severe economic downturn 2008 was unprecedented. The savings & loan scandals of the early 1990s gave way to the internet bubble bursting at the end of the decade, and let’s not forget the collapse of such once-mighty American corporations as Enron, WorldCom and others around the same time. Billions of dollars were well and truly blown, and more often than not it’s the American taxpayer left holding the tab.

Deregulation may be to blame to some extent, according to Inside Job, but simple human greed certainly has an important place in causing a domino effect so horrific that the entire financial structure of a nation (or nations) is crippled, or at least compromised.

The safeguards designed to prevent, or at least warn, about such a financial catastrophe were either unheeded or defied, whether intentionally or otherwise. If the bottom line is accountability, no one who could conceivably be accused of wrongdoing has been charged, or even penalized. Many walked away with their fortunes intact, and several continue to hold key positions today, where they wield just as much power over this nation’s fortunes as they did prior to the collapse. The unsettling impression is that something like this could happen again. In that regard, Inside Job may be the scariest movie you’ll see all year.

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