Xplodera’s review published on Letterboxd:
Although I’ve found (guilty?) pleasure in the Saw-franchise in the past, I think less and less of it for each passing year and much of it thanks to the later sequels slamming it down completely into the ground. The 2017-resurrection didn’t do anything but give a fresher coat of paint to the series, but the news about… Chris Rock making a new film was admittedly wacky enough to spark some curiosity again.
Rock’s ambitions are admirable; scaling the film back and putting the spotlight on the police-investigation. It doesn’t need Jigsaw or tying it to a larger arc, instead rooting the antagonist-reveal in this film only. The traps too, are fairly creative and never too many or too over-the-top, returning director Darren Lynn Bouseman even brings back the grimy visual style of earlier (which is a bit disappointment, seeing how one of Jigsaw’s few bright spots was to freshen up the aesthetics). Yet unlike the gory trap-setups, it never quite comes together in the end.
Ambitions or not, Rock’s inability to let go of the comedy ruins his attempt at a serious performance and the jokes are too awful to spice up the script at all. The focus on the inherent issues of the police-force brings a political side to the film reminiscent of Saw VI but its tone is never quite safe enough to make it more than lip-service. At the heart of the film lies a fun crime-plot but the film is so rushed that it spoils the clues before we as viewers have a chance to puzzle together anything by ourselves. Ultimately, Spiral: From the Book of Saw is pleasantly toned-down, free from the bounds of a ten-movie-arc and focusing on just a few characters rather than random gore. But with its generic style and incredibly uneven script, it’s still a bit too sloppy to truly suceed.