Comedy legend Chris Rock takes a step outside of his comedy comfort zone to dabble in the suspense genre in Lionsgate Spiral. Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, Spiral is the latest addition in the Saw franchise serving more like a reboot than a traditional sequel. Brash detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) has spent his professional career working in the shadow of his father, an esteemed police veteran (Samuel L. Jackson) by the name of Marcus Banks.
After a fellow police officer meets a murderous end, Zeke’s boss, Capt. Garza (Marisol Nichols) forces him to work with a rookie partner, William Schenk (Max Minghella). Their assignment is to take charge of a grisly investigation into murders eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past. Unwittingly trapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game.
Star Chris Rock came up with the initial story treatment for Spiral. In addition, the creative team for Spiral includes some Saw veterans. Director Darren Lynn Bousman previously helmed the second, third, and fourth sequels to the original film. In contrast, the film writers Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger wrote 2017’s Jigsaw, which attempted to reboot the franchise.
Given Rock’s style of comedy, I wasn’t surprised with the angle he uses for Spiral. In hindsight, Rock has made a film that combines horror and police corruption. That’s all you need to know going into the film. Now the writers could have quickly gone the easy route and made Rock’s character a relative of former Saw characters such as David Tapp or Daniel Rigg, played by Danny Glover and Lyriq Bent, respectively. Instead, they give Rock his character a storyline that could easily carry over to future films.
Despite some of his facial expressions during tense moments, Rock was solid in his first horror role. The comic is fully committed to the role, and I tip my hat to Rock for trying something new. That said, the rest of the cast does what they can with the material despite being mainly here to find ways to meet a gruesome end. Samuel L.Jackson fans may get upset with this limited screen time, but he does drop his usual F-bombs.
While the traps that made the previous Saw films a mainstay do happen, Spiral is tame compared to the earlier entries in the series. I generally enjoyed the movie, but there is one gripe I had. Spiral ends on the abrupt note as the previous films while leaving the door open for a sequel. I would’ve liked the ending to be a bit tighter.
Despite a few issues, Spiral never stays its welcome with its short ninety-five minute run time. The film may not win any awards, but as movie theaters worldwide begin to reopen, Spiral should be mindless crowd fun.
Final Grade: C+