Saw X received positive reviews when it was first launched
It currently has a rating of 62 on “Metacritic” and 84% freshness on “Rottentomatoes”
on “Rottentomatoes” with 31 reviews
on “metacritic.com” with 5 reviews
The film’s highlight is Amanda, a tempest of fully embodied desperation and psychosis.
As John Kramer (Tobin Bell), a.k.a. Jigsaw, emcees another spectacle of savagery, he tells his victims, “This is not retribution. It’s a reawakening.” The statement would seem to suggest that Kevin Greutert’s Saw X is here to reinvent the long-running Saw franchise. If so, that would make it the third or so attempt at such a reengineering.
Darren Lynn Bousman’s Spiral, for one, was probably the closest we got to a quasi-prestige iteration of a Saw film, what with its bluntly ambivalent (really, incoherent) cop rhetoric and gliding SteadiCam shots. But, for the most part, that film was like any other Saw, even if its queasiness was less in its outright violence and more in the blithe way it used politically loaded imagery: pigs and their guts, literally and metaphorically, spilled all over the place.
Kramer was more of a ghost on the periphery of that film, and here he’s on hand to cement his status as an antihero of sorts. Without worrying about the series’s convoluted mythos, this one serves as a direct sequel to the first film, taking place before Saw II. And that information is important insofar as Kramer is still alive and facing a terminal diagnosis of brain cancer.
That this trap, which involves sticky fingers being broken and eyes being sucked out, is only an idea germinating in Kramer’s mind and comes after the opening credits contrast their text with CT-scan images of his cranium, sets up the expectation that Saw X might end up being more of a character study. The film is unable to deliver on that promise, as well as the one where Amanda gets to do anything interesting other than occasionally serve as a spark of a conscience.
But it’s difficult to hold those unmet expectations against Saw X, even as it twists and turns in its attempt to make the reason for Jigsaw’s actions have more pathos or feel more justified. Jigsaw’s victims, we’re reminded, are terrible scammers—people who’ve robbed others of real hope through their medical malpractice. And Lund, as the chilly fake doctor with cheekbones as sharp as a bone saw, holds her own through the torment, serving a little Diana Kruger along the way. It’s she who, finally, challenges Jigsaw’s rusted metal fist of a moral code, but this rhetorical inversion comes too late to make that much of a difference in the film’s trajectory.
The real disappointment is that Shawnee Smith, who makes a return to the series for the first time since Saw VI, is relegated to mostly doing John’s dirty work. It’s hard out here for a disciple, and Smith hasn’t had the chance to show off her chops as an actor since Saw III. But in Saw X, we do get crumbs of what makes her so thrilling as a performer, particularly one in the horror genre: She’s all id, a tempest of emotion and fully embodied desperation and psychosis.
Smith imbues the films in which she appears with wit and humor, as well as the stakes to make the films more than a parade of bone-crunching, marrow-slurping, and bloodletting. Despite the thinness of her role, Smith captivates for the way she’s able to get us to trust that Amanda trusts someone like Jigsaw. She’s the ultimate follower that paradoxically has the charisma and dynamism to lead herself. Which makes you wish that a Saw film would finally let Amanda be the one that audiences worship. We’d drink the gory Kool-Aid for her.