Don't Breathe 2 (2021)

AUGUST 13, 2021


The existence of Don't Breathe 2 is an odd one for many reasons, chiefly that it doesn't even bother to go with the thin premise established at the end of the first one, in which the Blind Man would follow Jane Levy and her sister to California to finish the job. Perhaps Levy couldn't be coaxed to return, or they realized they couldn't fake Los Angeles in Serbia, but either way they opted to do something else. But that they bothered at all is another puzzler; it's been five years, which is an eternity for a budding genre franchise, and before you say "it was delayed because of covid" - nope! They actually shot it last year; it's one of the very few movies to come out in 2021 that wasn't bounced around the schedule.

That said the action skips ahead eight years, so if Levy ever wanted to come back after all, they could go the prequel/midquel route and slot it in that sizable period. This film is pretty standalone; Stephen Lang's Blind Man mentions having lost a daughter but otherwise there's no real connection to the first film even as far as the first film's character goes, let alone its events. As long as you know he's a blind guy who isn't all that great of a human being (i.e. something you can glean from the trailer) you have all the context you need. In fact I actually wondered if they were attempting to retcon some of his lesser qualities or hope that we simply forgot them, but he actually refers to himself as a rapist at one point, which surprised me. He's wisened up from the original! (Where he specifically said he was NOT a rapist as he merely wanted to artificially inseminate someone - the ickiest gray area of all time?)

Anyway, the plot this time is that eight years ago he stumbled on a house fire (burning down from a meth lab explosion) and found a little girl who survived when her family presumably did not. So he takes her under his wing (kidnapping, essentially) and teaches her how to fight, read in Braille, etc. But he also won't let her out of the house much, or play with other kids, or anything like that, so naturally now that she's 12ish she's starting to question her world and how lonely it is. One day she attracts the attention of some lowlifes who may or may not be kidnapping people to take their organs, and so Lang has to spring back into action to protect her. But... does he?


The wrinkle here is that the head lowlife, Raylan (Brendan Sexton III from Session 9), claims to be her actual father, having NOT died in the fire as we've assumed. The mystery of whether he is lying or not is part of the suspense, and I won't spoil that much here, only to note that the script's attempts at curveballs and misdirection never really pan out. Ultimately, everything happens pretty much exactly how you will probably expect it to, which is kind of a weird thing to be saying about an R rated thriller that dared to make the murderous villain from the first film into an antihero. Rather than lean into the fact that he's bad, they simply make the other people worse (and have him save a dog for good measure), which I found to be kind of a cop out. And it doesn't help that the characterization for the quintet of villains is pretty underwhelming; for this sort of "vigilante gets revenge against scummy dudes" kind of thing it's easy to think about The Crow, and how that film gave each of those guys some color and scene-stealing antics, but you get next to none of that sort of thing here. Two of them are actually brothers and we don't even learn this information until one of them is dead, nor did I manage to catch most of their names.

They also could have really surprised us and just killed The Blind Man off halfway through or something, letting the little girl (Madelyn Grace) to save herself using the survival skills he taught her. Sometimes they come into play, such as the film's highlight sequence (an early long shot in which she evades her would-be captors throughout the house), but for the most part she's gotta wait for Lang to come along and spring her loose from whatever predicament she's currently in. But given her age, we know she's gonna be just fine (same as with the original; we knew Levy would survive because she had to save her little sister from their over-the-top awful home life), so there really isn't much suspense to the proceedings once we know the truth of her parentage.

I was also curious why the script (again by Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues, with the latter taking over the director's chair this time) waited so long to move the action from Lang's house to a decaying hotel where the bad guys have set up shop. The trailer made it look like it was an even split, but honestly I think there's only about 25 minutes left of the movie by the time Lang makes his way there. The new locale, and Lang's unfamiliarity with it, could have given the movie more room to play, but with so much of it at his house, it comes off as a retread for far too long, another crippling blow for a suspense film of this type. Apart from the aforementioned long shot sequence, and another bit where Grace has to choose between electrocution, drowning, or capture, there's precious little nailbiter kind of stuff here, which was the original's calling card.

That said it's an easy enough way to burn off 95 minutes (nothing worth risking a theater for though, if you're Delta-phobic or what not). Lang, pushing 70, gives a great physical performance, producer Sam Raimi gets some of his splatter in there (not as much as there seemingly should be though, considering how despicable the villains are), and it thankfully avoids any of the ickiness that dampened the fun of the original (as much as I laughed at the pubic hair sight gag there). I honestly think it'll play better to people who haven't seen the original, but if you were a die hard fan of that one I'm sure you won't mind watching Lang do his thing for another round. Still, if they make a third, I hope they think outside the box a bit; I noted in my review for the original that I would probably never bother watching it again because the suspense factor would be gone, but at times here I felt I was doing just that.

What say you?


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