Chris Rock has played a cop before — long ago, when the Saturday Night Live breakout took on a supporting role in 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4. He has also criticized law enforcement before, most notably with his oft-shared routine from the 2018 Netflix special in which he dismantles the excuse that some police departments just have “bad apples.”
When it came to Spiral, though — the new humor-laced Saw spin-off Rock lobbied Lionsgate to let him make — the 56-year-old comedian and actor had no misgivings about putting on a badge to play a Metro City detective.
“I never really starred as a cop, and it’s almost like a comedian rite of passage, especially Black comedians,” Rock tells Yahoo Entertainment (watch above), pointing to Eddie Murphy (Beverly Hills Cop), Martin Lawrence (Bad Boys), Chris Tucker (Rush Hour) and Kevin Hart (Ride Along). “It’s such a thing. [But] I didn’t want to do it like everybody else. I’m like, ‘Hmmm. What if it had a little horror in it?
“But no, I did not second guess playing a cop at all.”
Rock’s self-described “weird relationship with the cops” as a Black man does reverberate through Spiral, though. While the Saw franchise’s longtime killer Jigsaw targeted law enforcement plenty of times in the past with his morality tests and death traps, the Jigsaw copycat killer in Spiral exclusively targets cops, some of whom have shot unarmed men. It all makes the social justice element of Spiral — which was written in 2018 and filmed in summer, 2019, a year before the racial reckoning that followed the police killing of George Floyd — feel more pointed today. Or as IndieWire film critic David Ehrlich put it, “Saw is woke now.”
“It seems very timely,” Rock says. “To say ‘luck’ would be a weird thing. But sometimes the stars just align. So now the movie is better than if it would’ve came out pre-pandemic.”
Director Darren Lynn Bousman confirms Spiral evolves the series’ social awareness.
“One of the things the Saw franchise has always been about is reforming the individual,” he says. “So one of the first things we looked at was, ‘How do we elevate Jigsaw’s message in this new kind of revival? How do you elevate that idea?’ So the first thought was, it should no longer be about reforming an individual, it should be about reforming an institution.
“One of the things that was important to us was to not cast a light saying, ‘All police are bad.’ Or [saying that] we were going after the police. Because the hero of the movie is a cop as well, doing the right thing.”
Spiral is now playing.
Watch Chris Rock talk about how a chance wedding encounter led to his involvement:
-Video produced by Jon San and edited by John Santo
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