Combustible Celluloid
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With: Stephen Lang, Brendan Sexton III, Madelyn Grace, Rocci Williams, Stephanie Arcila, Bobby Schofield, Steffan Rhodri, Diaana Babnicova, Adam Young, Christian Zagia, Ron Rogell
Written by: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Directed by: Rodo Sayagues
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, gruesome images, and language
Running Time: 98
Date: 08/13/2021

Don't Breathe 2 (2021)

2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This sequel, which turns the deadly Blind Man into the protagonist, contains a few deft, intense sequences, but its ridiculous, ill-conceived villains and its twisted moral compass reek of halitosis.

The Blind Man, a.k.a. Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang), has been raising daughter Phoenix (Madelyn Grace), teaching her survival skills and home-schooling her. He rarely lets her out to take trips to town, but one day he allows it, in the company of delivery person Hernandez (Stephanie Arcila).

She encounters a sinister man (Brendan Sexton III), who seems a little too interested in her. Late that night, three men break into Norman and Phoenix's home. Phoenix uses her training to evade the intruders, while Norman dispatches most of them. Unfortunately, Phoenix is taken. Who are her attackers, and what do they want? And can Norman come to her rescue in time?

Directed by Rodo Sayagues, screenwriter of the original Don't Breathe and the Evil Dead remake, the wildly gory Don't Breathe 2 is at its best with the cat-and-mouse stuff, such as Phoenix cleverly dodging the invaders, creating diversions, and scrambling into unlikely hiding places — even hanging off of the edge of a staircase. Another sequence has Norman in an unfamiliar basement, gaining the advantage after a broken water pipe covers the floor in sloshing water. A third one takes place dangerously close to the edge of an empty swimming pool.

But the villains are a huge downside. At first they seem to be veterans of the War in Iraq, but they appear as two-bit psychopaths or members of some half-baked street gang. Their real motivations are meant to be a surprise, but as each piece of the puzzle is revealed, it makes less and less sense. (Suffice to say that, showing up at Phoenix's house in the middle of the night with guns shouldn't have been the smartest plan.)

The Norman character is likewise problematic, very tough, but haunted by his hideous misdeeds, and beaten so badly that his yelps of pain start to wear us down. He's a truly sad character, perhaps an ill fit for an "entertainment" thriller like Don't Breathe 2. A strange coda further indicates a complete emotional detachment.

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