Rock fails to sharpen latest ‘Saw’ sequel

Chris Rock in Spiral: From the Book of Saw / Lionsgate

“Spiral” the latest sequel in the venerable Saw series, delivers both more and less than most of the other movies in the franchise that has been grossing out audiences since 2004.

While I’m not particularly a fan of the franchise, I do get the appeal of the series that continues to deliver torturous mayhem and gore film after film, ratcheting up the tension and terror for those willing to follow the series. More power to them. Often modern horror just isn’t my preferred brew.

However, I am a fan of Chris Rock. His starring role lured me back into the cinema to see what the latest movie in the series had to offer.

From my vantage point, the movie might be a bit more violent and maybe a little more gory than previous outings, but it is basically just another Saw movie. More clever than some, but less so than others.

Rock’s performance as a misogynistic detective named Zeke, who is forced against his lone-wolf nature to accept a partner (Max Minghella), is a pretty routine persona for Rock to play, including his rants about how women can’t be trusted that often fill his comedy sets. Zeke is positioned as the protagonist, but he’s not above pushing the rules, if not violently running over them.

The film does introduce a new puppet alias as the film’s sadistic mastermind, who has a whole new schtick and motivation from the original villain, John Kramer, but that’s really just window dressing. Originality isn’t the movie’s forte.

My guess is that if you like the other Saw films, you might enjoy aspects of this reinterpretation, just with diminishing returns. If like me, your interest stems from Rock starring in a horror movie, I’d say wait for it to turn up on TV.

(R) 1 hr. 33 min.

Fiesta Square extends schedule starting May 26

The AMC Fiesta Square 12, which has been operating primarily only weekends since reopening from last spring and summer’s Covid-19 shutdown, will return to seven-day-a-week operation on May 26, according to the company’s website.

New in Local Theaters

Army of the Dead (watch trailer) / (R) 2 hrs. 27 min. / Malco Razorback

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 33 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Rogers Pinnacle Hills, Skylight

Profile (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr, 46 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Rogers Pinnacle Hills

Finding You (watch trailer) / (PG) 1 hr. 59 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Pinnacle Hills, Skylight

Those Who Wish Me Dead (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 40 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Rogers Pinnacle Hills, Skylight

Classic Corner – The Big Heat

Glenn Ford in The Big Heat / Columbia Pictures

Glenn Ford starred and played in many fine movies in his 50-plus-year career on the big screen, usually playing an ordinary fellow who rises to the occasion to beat the odds against dire circumstances.

Films like “Gilda,” “Blackboard Jungle,” and “3:10 to Yuma” are classics, but for my money, Ford’s best movie is the 1953 noir “The Big Heat,” directed by Fritz Lange and co-starring Gloria Grahame and Jocelyn Brando.

Based on the William P. McGivern’s serialized novel published in 1953 by the “Saturday Evening Post,” the film is a classic crime story of a strait-laced cop who turns vigilante to fight against the corrupt system.

Homicide detective Dave Bannion (Ford) finds himself pushed in a corner when a suicide note brings to light the dirty underside of the local justice system. As he continues to place pressure on the system, tragedy strikes, and he quits the force accusing his superiors of corruption.

Now at odds with the cops and crime boss Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby), Bannion continues to push for justice while becoming chastely involved with Debby (Gloria Grahame) the girlfriend off Lagana’s henchman Vince Stone (Lee Marvin), whose abuse pushed Debby over the edge.

From here, the film twists and turns in unexpected ways that kept me glued to my seat in anticipation. No doubt, “The Big Heat” influenced latter-day noir films like 1974’s “Chinatown” and 1997’s “L.A. Confidential.”

The film may end a bit too clean to be totally satisfying to a modern audience, but this story of corruption and ultimately a very costly triumph for Ford’s character pushed boundaries in its day and holds up well.

Ford is strong in the film, but Marvin’s wicked charisma as brutal enforcer Stone stands out as does Grahame’s calculating performance as his abused girlfriend.

Lang’s direction is immaculate, keeping a complicated story clear, despite its convolutions.

The film plays at 7 p.m. Saturday on Turner Classic Movies.