out of Five
Running time: 90
The law of diminishing returns is in full effect here and Saw V is strictly for hardcore fans of the series, especially as it requires a working knowledge of all four previous films.
What's it all about?
The fifth instalment of the deathtrap-based franchise picks up immediately after the events of Saw IV, with FBI Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) surviving a Jigsaw deathtrap by giving himself an emergency tracheotomy as a sealed box surrounds his head with water. Strahm becomes convinced that shifty Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) was working in cahoots with the now-deceased Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), so he follows him around, hoping to catch him out.
At the same time, Hoffman plants evidence that implicates Strahm, so FBI chief Erickson (Mark Rolston) follows Strahm to see what he's up to. Meanwhile, flashbacks reveal Hoffman learning The Code of Jigsaw (shades of TV's Dexter here), while another five strangers (including Meagan Good, Carlo Rota and Dexter's Julie Benz) wake up in a deathtrap and have to complete a series of puzzles in order to survive.
As with Saw IV, the Jigsaw flashbacks are the best thing in the film and it's amusing to note that Tobin Bell gets more screentime now that he's dead than he did when his character was alive. The film also benefits from the injection of a few new faces (particularly Benz, Goode and Rota), but the script doesn't give them nearly enough to do and treats them almost as an afterthought.
The deathtraps themselves are disappointing this time round, as if the writers were running out of ideas. The only memorable traps are Strahm's water box and a device that's ripped off from The Pit and the Pendulum. The film also bungles the traditional final twist, which is a real 'Is that it?' moment, though at least it paves the way for Saw VI.
Basically, Saw V is about as good as you'd expect a fifth instalment to be. Die-hard fans of the franchise won't be disappointed, but everyone else will be.