TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) -- Here are reviews of two films opening in theaters or on streaming apps Friday, May 14:
It seems as though every "Saw" movie proclaims itself as the series finale, but just like the series' manipulative killer, the franchise is never truly down for the count. This spinoff entry injects some much-needed new energy into the playfully grim concept, in which a mysterious villain enacts vengeance on targets by sticking them in elaborate torture and death traps.
Samuel L. Jackson and Chris Rock, who play brash father-and-son cops, are just what the series needed to get it back on track. In crafting his story -- which mixes police procedural aspects with the standard twist-filled mystery -- director Darren Lynn Bousman shows more creative pizzazz than he has since he made the original film.
Rock, who is shepherding a rookie partner (Max Minghella), tries to track down a cop killer while mending fences with coworkers who no longer trust him due to his whistleblower ways.
All the gruesome and grisly traps you'd expect from a "Saw" film are still here, but it's the combustible performances by Jackson and Rock that lift the movie above any of the other sequels. While every bit as dark and unpredictable as its predecessors, "Spiral" shows that there is still plenty of life in these old bones.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4.
THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD (HBO MAX AND THEATERS)
Angelina Jolie plays a Montana smoke jumper haunted by a tragic past. Lonely and sullen, she finds a new sense of purpose when she becomes targeted by assassins who are looking to cover their tracks by eliminating a boy (Finn Little) who witnessed their crimes.
Director Taylor Sheridan has a solid command of visuals, and injects plenty of over-the-top action into his tale, there's a major disconnect between the super-serious tone and the wild combat and disaster scenes that are peppered throughout.
Nicholas Hoult and Aiden Gillen play a father-son assassin team who bungle their way through the world of fire, brimstone and awkward dialogue. The silly action sequences sometimes make the movie play like a version of "Home Alone."
A subplot involving a local sheriff and his pregnant wife goes nowhere and seems shoehorned in. Jolie's glowering performance mostly goes to waste in lieu of the groan-inducing action, and Tyler Perry has little to do in a small, thankless role as one of the Jolie character's colleagues. After starting out with promise, the whole production goes down in flames.
RATING: 1.5 stars out of 4.