[Screen It]


(2021) (Chris Rock, Max Minghella) (R)

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Horror: A detective tries to find and stop a killer who's murdering bad cops in grisly, torture-filled ways.

Despite being the son of beloved but now retired Police Chief Marcus Banks (SAMUEL L. JACKSON), Det. Zeke Banks (CHRIS ROCK) is viewed with disdain by most of his fellow cops including the likes of Det. Fitch (RICHARD ZEPPIERI) and Det. Kraus (EDIE INKSETTER). And that's because he turned in a bad cop in the past and only has the support of Capt. Angie Garza (MARISOL NICHOLAS).

When one of their own ends up murdered via grisly and macabre means, Zeke convinces Angie that he should lead the investigation. She reluctantly agrees, but only if he takes on rookie Detective William Schenk (MAX MINGHELLA) as his new partner. He's not crazy about the idea, but puts that behind him when it becomes clear that the killer wants him to be aware of the similarly torturous killing of other bad cops. Still affected by the past actions that have left him with a rocky relationship with his father, Zeke tries to find and stop the killer before more murders occur.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

I know this comment won't be popular in certain circles, but I feel bad for police officers. And by that, I mean those who do their job with dignity and wholeheartedly operate by the rules of "to serve and to protect." Now, they have figurative and sometimes literal targets on their backs due to the actions of bad cops who break the law and sometimes get away with doing so.

That ends up in a vicious circle where tensions rise across the board, putting officers more on edge which can lead to bad things -- accidental or intentional -- happening, which only exacerbates such situations and the working relationships that cops have with the public.

To make matters worse, any good cops who decide to act as whistleblowers as related to the bad ones are then seen as rats among many of their cohorts, meaning such reporting is discouraged or swept under the rug.

Such good cop vs. bad cop matters have fueled many a piece of fiction, including various movies such as "Training Day," "L.A. Confidential," and so on. Now we can include "Spiral" to the list where Chris Rock plays Zeke Banks, a detective who's viewed as the rodent du jour by most of his cohorts -- despite being the son of the internally beloved former police chief (Samuel L. Jackson) -- for turning in a bad cop in the past.

Now someone is murdering officers who've done bad things in the past and it's up to Zeke and his rookie partner, William Schenk (Max Minghella), to solve the case and stop the killer who may or may not be that former cop. Sounds like a familiar but nonetheless potentially decent premise, right?

Well, the twist here -- sort of -- is that the killer has set up fairly macabre morality play type scenarios where the victims must choose between serious injury or death based on their particular past wrongdoing. If that sounds familiar to films featuring the serial killer known as Jigsaw, you'd be correct as this is the ninth (!) installment of the popular torture porn "Saw" franchise.

As directed by Darren Lynn Bousman from a screenplay by Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger, this horror flick offers up more of the same old, same old we've come to expect from this series. All of which means if you've enjoyed any or all of the film's predecessors, you'll probably feel the same about this one that has a higher profile cast, although I'll readily admit that beyond Tobin Bell (as the original killer) and Cary "I was in 'The Princess Bride' Elwes, I don't recall any other past performers.

Granted, the grisly torture has always been the star of these films, overshadowing the actors and that's the case once again where the gruesome mayhem is more convincing than Rock playing the besieged detective. If you're okay with that, more power to you.

But if you're looking for an intriguing or engaging look at bad cops and those who make them pay for their sins -- by the book or in vigilante mode -- this isn't the flick. Okay for fans of the series but likely no one else, "Spiral" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed May 12, 2021 / Posted May 14, 2021

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