31 In 31: Saw II
In a time before the country was saturated with the Saw franchise, there was the first sequel.
Police detective Eric Matthews (Donnie not Mark Wahlberg) is a single father who has trouble communicating with his son, Daniel. Called to the scene of a completed Jigsaw trap, Eric is able to piece together, with his partner, Kerry (Dina Meyer) the location of John Kramer's (Tobin Bell) lair. John is considerably weak from his cancer, but states that he needs Eric to stay and talk with him as Daniel's life depends on it.
John reveals that a group of strangers are locked in a house that is slowly being filled with a nerve agent. John states that in 2 hours, all parties in the house including Jigsaw survivor Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith). While a SWAT team works to track the location of Daniel and the other in the house, John and Eric engage in conversation.
In the house, the survivors slowly learn that the house has been booby-trapped beyond the nerve agent seeping in. An antidote is also revealed to be located within the house, but the persons inside have to resort to a mob mentality to try and survive.
This is a film of 2 separate stories. The nerve agent house consists of 8 separate characters who are fighting to survive. The other is a battle of mind games between John Kramer and Eric Matthews. The nerve agent house sequences are the least interesting as they sum up what the Saw franchise turned into. We have traps, grisly deaths and lots of over-acting.
What sets this film apart are the sequences of dialogue between John and Eric. Tobin's performance as John in this film is what I feel is the pinnacle of the character. Unbeknownst to Eric, John is holding all of the cards. Eric feels that he can use his muscle to overpower the physically, but not mentally, weak John. The battle of wits between these 2 characters really elevates this film.
Overall, this is a solid entry into the Saw franchise. Not the best, but when this movie is good, it is really good. Tobin Bell, as he does with the entire franchise, anchors this film and gives weight to what could have been just another slasher film.