Chris Rock takes on dirty cops and serial killers. In a really nice car. Not a lot of saws.
When I was asked to review the new Chris Rock film, admittedly, I didn’t actually read the title of the film before agreeing. I was expecting The Longest Yard. The Longest Yard was not what I got.
Let’s dive into Spiral, a film, I’m informed, is from the book of Saw. I have never seen a Saw film, so I’m reviewing this totally fresh to the series. I cannot tell you if this is the first one to see, or the last. But I sat through the whole thing.
Spiral feels like a film parodying a cop film with a sprinkle of horror thrown in so it can slap the Saw association on the poster. The plot was uneven, which is expected when you have a talent like Chris Rock fronting the project. You expect funny, and boy, he delivers many future GIFs, the problem is you go from a couple of “motherfuckers” and then someone’s fingers are being pulled off. I didn’t quite buy it. The gore didn’t feel earned.
Spiral had all the tropes of a cop film: a dirty department, an angry chief, and intergenerational trauma. It even casts Rock as a renegade cop who won’t play by the rules and doesn’t need a partner… until he immediately takes one Max Minghella under his wing after a few shared “motherfuckers”. Where tension is set up with hurdles, characters don’t so much develop their way through the plot devices as they do accept the trope and carry on. Dramatically, it’s unsatisfying, even if I plan on using all of the film’s GIFs moving forward.
In some ways, Spiral feels like it was produced purely to help Chris Rock pivot into more serious roles as a leading man - his own Uncut Gems. If that’s the direction he wants to head in, there will be no shortage of roles available because he can pull in an audience. The audience in this screening loved him from the minute he walked on screen with a monologue about how Forrest Gump would not be made in the 2020s to the final “motherfucker” (honestly there were many).
The film delivers on the all star cast and gives us a beautiful universe in which Samuel L Jackson is Chris Rock’s father (a “motherfuckers” multiplier, you might say). Spiral was beautifully shot, the sound editing was top notch for its genre, but the story lacked the types of the surprises needed to keep an audience on its toes. It was not the horror film I was expecting, but I’m sure it’s a great example for film students to pick apart when trying to understand the anatomy of a cop film. In the 80s.
Finally, Spiral has only one saw in it. Being unfamiliar with the Saw universe, I did go in assuming that it would be filled with them, but there really was just the one.
Needed more saws.