Linda Cook review: ‘Spiral’ continues gory legacy of ‘Saw’

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“Spiral” puts a new spin on the “Saw” franchise.

This is not a sequel; rather, it’s a spin-off set in the same “Saw” universe. It doesn’t have the characters from the first movies, but relies on the new characters’ knowledge of them  – and the audience’s familiarity – with the first films to build tension and intrigue.

The central character is Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock) who follows up on grisly murders that appear to be committed by a copycat of the late Jigsaw Killer.

The first victim, a police officer, turns up in a grisly scene in a subway. Soon, Banks begins to receive packages from the killer.

Banks, with his new and inexperienced partner Detective William Schenk (Max Minghella) now begins to investigate a string of slayings throughout the city.

Samuel L. Jackson’s character of Banks’ father is a welcome addition. What movie doesn’t Jackson enhance? I love their strained relationship, which helps promote the tension of the murders.

Also, although it took me a few minutes to get used to his sarcastic wisecracks and cranky approach, I enjoyed Rock in this role.

There’s a new pig puppet, ghastly contraptions and the spiral symbol that reflect what has happened in the “Saw” series. The characters are not particularly likeable, either, which also was a trademark of the earlier “Saw” films.

“Spiral” has a strangely timely underlying theme of police corruption that provides some social commentary and certainly opportunity for conversation after you’ve seen the film.

The original title was “Spiral: From the Book of Saw,” which I really liked because it lets you know it’s neither a sequel nor a prequel.

Something tells me there will be more “Book of Saw” stories, and that Rock may be part of them. I hope so.

3 stars

Rated: R for gore, foul language and violence. 

Running time: One hour and 33 minutes.

At Cinemark, Davenport, and Palms 10, Muscatine.

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