The MPAA rejected the original poster for Saw II, an image of two severed fingers. The producers were permitted to keep their grimy digits, but with the stumped ends concealed beyond the frame. Put aside the temptation to read an allegory of a studio's determination to leave its meddling fingerprints on a project on at any cost. What's worth noting is how much greater deliberation was given to the marketing than the screenplay of this cursory dud, rushed to theaters exactly a year after its amusing predecessor. Saw II represents Hollywood's latest calculus, not that different from the old math, which holds that the coveted teen audience can be bought for as little as a flimsy horror sequel or remake (House of Wax, The Fog) lacquered in a cast plucked from the WB. This time, criminal mastermind Jigsaw imprisons his victims inside a labyrinthine house furnished with lethal booby traps and the Tokyo subway neurotoxin. In the hackneyed role of the shady cop whose delinquent son is one of the captives, former NKOTBer Donnie Wahlberg is simply hypnotic. Though he shares his more talented younger brother's face and something of his runt charisma, in those pouched, sallow eyes the disappointment of living in Marky Mark's shadow flares.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.