Aeneas Hemphill’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've just finished watching Saws 1-7 for a reason I cannot describe so now I'm gonna talk about 'em.
I think if you were like "ok I'm gonna see exactly one Saw film" this is the one I'd recommend. It's arguably the most "well-made" of all the films. It's got a pulpy vibe, some actual stars (Danny Glover???) and it's got the violence without rubbing your face in it like future installments would (which is what I was looking for when I watched them).
I think with this one you can see the craft most clearly, even if it's not technically "great" or even "good."
The problems with the film, and by extension the series as a whole, are with the mastermind killer Jigsaw. The traps, even at this early stage, were pretty ridiculous, and the ethos, if you can call it that, the "giving bad people a choice of whether they live or die, and this will reform them" is promising but ultimately is never dealt with in any deep or serious way. It's a missed opportunity. But if you're looking for some nasty shit this is a pretty good place to look.