Don't bother seeing Saw, a stupefyingly stupid exercise in cinematic sadism. Written and directed by two Australian newcomers, this surprise Sundance Film Festival hit spirals into convolution from scene one.

Adam and Lawrence (co-writers Leigh Whannel and English hambone Cary Elwes) wake up chained to rusty pipes in an underground bathhouse, the latest victims-to-be of the Jigsaw Killer. This ruthless avenger kidnaps those who don't live life to the fullest -- a drug addict, a suicidal malcontent, a doctor who neglects his family -- and pits them in gruesome deathtraps. Lawrence's predicament is that in a few hours Jigsaw will slaughter his wife and daughter unless he can find a way to kill Adam. Of course, Adam knows more than he lets on, and a loaded six-shooter is just out of Lawrence's reach.

Though it attempts to bludgeon itself into a canon of great, gory thrillers like Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, Saw sorely lacks the urgency and gritty realism those other, better movies provide. Uninteresting characters, terrible acting and chimpanzee logic compound the flaws and spoil the fun. (Cell phones that can receive calls but not send them? A shotgun victim who gets up and walks away? Puh-leeze!)Genre junkies might appreciate the unintentionally funny script and the incomprehensible final act accompanied by the dumbest surprise ending since the Planet of the Apes. Still, perhaps one of the damned dirty apes over at Lions Gate should have sent this drivel back to the drawing board.


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