It is almost comical that the Saw is trying to become politically involved. The utterly pointless opening scene traps two bankers who denied down-on-their-luck homeowners loans or extensions. Jigsaw, despite dying long before the current crisis, obviously saw the future of the market and planned ahead.
The basis for this series entry, since those opening kills do nothing for the following story (but in the sequels, who knows?), is a debate on health care. William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) is the head of a health care firm, denying coverage to Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) for his cancer. This is one of the few instances where denying coverage may actually be acceptable, given Jigsaw’s enjoyment of trapping people in head-snapping, limb-breaking, and torso-ripping devices. Maybe William did everyone a favor.
Regardless, Easton is the latest puppet in the Jigsaw style of play. Mark Hoffman (Constance Mandylor) has taken over the reigns, setting up some admittedly effective, tension building traps. The sheer graphic nature of the violence, all for the pleasure of a blood-thirsty audience, dilutes any meaningful attempt at commentary. Then again, not many people look to the Saw series for enlightenment on current issues.
Many of the problems with Saw VI can be attributed to the writing, although oddly, you cannot fully blame co-writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. It is fair to criticize some of the absurd dialogue that talks on such a low level, it actually explains what public records are.
Saw VI does explain itself (and the history) exceptionally well, but through constant, jarring flashbacks. Compared to previous entries, an encyclopedia-level knowledge of this franchise is not needed. Flashbacks however are a cop-out, replacing intelligent, clean writing for an easy fix. With only a year between each sequel, expecting anyone to pull off an adequate, logical script is over-reaching.
Credit is due to former-editor-turned-director Kevin Greutert for making the most of a limited budget. As Easton stands at a trap, holding two chains that will determine which co-worker lives or dies, it is an audience moment. Like a twisted game show, you are supposed to get involved, yell at the screen to make your voice heard. The same goes for a vicious shotgun trap, impressive considering how formulaic this has become. Maybe that is a sign there is life in this franchise yet, even if it needs support to sustain it. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]
One of the first frames of Saw VI is a close-up on a hand. Lionsgate’s AVC encode brings out immense detail, down to every crevice on the skin. For many of these opening scenes, that level of reference quality detail remains firm. Faces inside the insurance company’s office are brimming with high-fidelity textures, and hair is wonderfully defined despite an intentionally blown-out contrast.
The film stock generates a fine layer of grain that remains clean, intact, and unobtrusive. Wildly varying color shifts take Saw VI into a variety of different palettes, from the steely blue of offices, to the red-drenched steam room trap. Flashbacks take on a variety of tones as well, including bright greens to yellows.
The transfer suffers no ill effects from the constant switching, although the level of detail varies greatly. Few scenes after the initial group look impressive, and it is not due to the low, grim lighting. Even shots in well-lit, brightly colored environments deliver flat, unimpressive facial details. Black levels are fair, enough to establish minimal depth, but maintain a murky quality.
Sharpness is usually strong, a brief battle with noise is perfectly acceptable as Hoffman stares at some screens around 12:20, and blood is especially dominant with its red hues throughout. This transfer captures the look and style of the film it presents, for better or worse. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]
As usual, Lionsgate delivers a DTS-HD 7.1 mix, with typically enjoyable results. Fast-whipping camera movements are disorienting, yet seem to be captured well in all channels. Given their speed, it can make it difficult to discern directionality. The haunting, creepy score is typically bled into the rears effectively, with crisp fronts delivering excellent fidelity.
As Easton walks into a room where six of his co-workers are chained up, their pleas for help are wonderfully distributed in the surrounds. Clanging, moving metal is reproduced faithfully, with a rustic, dirty quality that is fully discernable. Jigsaw recordings, typically done on TVs, move with the camera, splitting the fronts clean and utilizing the extra surrounds for additional placement. A fire late in the movie hits the sub with its roar, and when a trap is cued up, the bottom drops out on the sub for an eerie death cue.
The steam trap succeeds as the most immersive moment on the disc. Hissing pipes spew heated water vapor in all directions, each pipe delivered in what appears to be the proper channels. This is a highly effective mix. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Two commentaries, the first from director Kevin Greutert and co-writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan is followed by a track with producers Mark Burg, Peter Block, and Jason Constantine. The first featurette is a Saw tradition, focusing on the creation of the traps and their concept. Jigsaw Revealed focuses on Tobin Bell, and how he prepares for the role. A Killer Maze is a detailed look at the creation of a Saw attraction at Universal Studios.
Some music videos, trailers, BD-Live (typical to Lionsgate), BD-Touch, and Metamenu support are included as well. As a bonus, the original Saw is also included inside the case, but with the same transfer and compressed audio as the original release. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Extras]