Film Review: “Spiral”

  • SPIRAL
  • Starring: Chris Rock, Max Minghella
  • Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
  • Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hr 33 mins
  • Lionsgate 

Part of the premise of the “Saw” franchise is that the story’s victims are put in horrendous situations and then forced choose to do something terrible to escape or die horribly. Except possibly the 2004 original, I have desperately wanted to run away from each one of these dismal death traps as they begin to flicker to life on the screen. The newest installment, “Spiral” is easily one of the most unsurprising, stereotypical works of cinema I have ever seen in my career as a professional film critic. 

The story, which is a nice way to describe what is presented to us as entertainment, begins during a 4th of July celebration when an off-duty detective does not call for any backup before chasing a purse snatcher down into a darkened subway tunnel. Shockingly, he never sees the light of day again. Enter Det. Zeke Banks (Chris Rock), a lone wolf cop who is hated by every police officer in his precinct as they all view him as a rat. 

Divorced and estranged from his father, former police chief Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson), Zeke is forced to take on a younger partner, Det. William Schenk (Max Minghella, “The Handmaid’s Tale”) as he begins his investigation into crimes committed by a Jigsaw-inspired killer. Despite his efforts, the body count climbs as more dirty cops are killed in such horrific ways that you cannot help but wonder how the writers who come up with these ideas sleep at night. 

At the risk of ruining any surprises those who wish to spend their hard-earned dollars on seeing “Spiral,” I will refrain from going into any more details about the story. It should be noted that while there has been a total of eight “Saw” films in the franchise, “Spiral” is technically not part of the franchise’s ongoing tale as villain Tobin Bell (John Kramer) is only mentioned in this endeavor. 

Directed by Overland Park, KS native Darren Lynn Bousman, who also helmed “Saw II,” “III” and “IV,” “Spiral” overflows with unbearable, over-the-top grotesqueness matched only by ridiculous stereotypes (e.g. a captain who yells and waves fingers at a “rogue” detective) and plot points so predictable that you could go to the bathroom for ten minutes and not miss a beat. A good chunk of Rock’s dialogue feels like a stand-up comedy routine and when he wants to present himself as intense, he often resorts to squinting his eyes like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western. Minghella is stoic while Jackson is too underutilized. The rest of the cast delivers choppy performances with dialogue that may have been written in crayon. 

Overall, “Spiral” spirals down into an abyss of mindlessness so bad that not even a stiff drink could help salvage it as being watchable.

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