The “Saw” series is in trouble. When the franchise decides to substitute what it does best — splashing unreasonable amounts of blood, gore and mayhem at audiences — with scenes of political criticism, you know something has gone terribly wrong.

“Saw VI”

At Quality 16 and Showcase

The newly released sixth installment of the series shifts away from the quasi-comfort zone of graphic violence, focusing instead on boring, politically charged rants about health insurance companies. These unstructured interjections feel forced and overly didactic. While noble in theory, addressing weighty issues in a movie devoted solely to crazy death contraptions is completely bogus and out of place.

Even the staple of the series — torture scenes — has been watered down in both shock value and creativity. For example, one of the torture devices is a machine that slowly squeezes the victim’s sides with each breath the person takes, so the victim has to hold his breath to prevent himself from being squashed. Scenes like this take up far too much time and aren’t even particularly breath-taking (pun unfortunately intended) to watch.

Other than the newly vamped insurance condemnation and the lack of imagination, “Saw VI” is the same movie as the previous five. The mood is ominous; the moral messages are as pretentious as ever; the scattered plot elements fall inevitably into place by the end of the film. The worst part is that the end of the movie doesn’t feel like any sort of resolution, hinting at more “Saw” movies to come. If this ends up being the case, the “Saw” franchise will find itself in the same fatal situations as the victims in its films.

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