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When Universal won’t screen its latest franchise flick to critics in IMAX, you should already start anticipating the worst. For a decade (counting “Hobbs & Shaw”), audiences have either been entertained by these brainless action sequels or repelled by their lack of restraint for the absurd.

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Kudos to the director and writing team for selling us an action movie that allows the audience to invest more in the characters than the shootouts or the violence. You will be hard pressed to find a more satisfying new release this week, in English or otherwise.

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Technically, “Spiral” is the ninth film in the franchise, and while there is new blood in front of the camera, director Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed Saw 2-4, doesn’t bring a sense of inventiveness to the series or the genre as a whole.