Don’t Breathe 2, 2021.
Directed by Rodo Sayagues.
Starring Stephen Lang, Madelyn Grace, Brendan Sexton III, Adam Young, Rocci Williams, Diaana Babnicova, and Stephanie Arcila.
Blind former soldier Norman Nordstrom is back and going up against a gang of kidnappers who break into his house to kidnap his newly acquired ‘daughter’.
It is clear right from the off that Don’t Breathe 2 is not going to be quite the same as its predecessor, 2016s Don’t Breathe; it wants to be, because that first movie was a successful blend of tense claustrophobia and violent action that hit all of the right beats to make a tight little thriller, but despite how much it wants to repeat the formula (and the success) the filmmakers have made two very big errors.
The first is with the title, because in the original movie the point was that the characters did not breathe or make a sound otherwise blind Norman Nordstrom (played by Stephen Lang), whose house they had broken into, would hear them. Makes sense, right? It creates tension in a situation where making noise is inevitable. Here, the new gang of people breaking into Norman’s house are quite happy to make as much noise as possible – as is he – as gunfire, explosions and dogs barking help to create no tension or atmosphere whatsoever.
However, this is not the worst crime this movie commits, for not only is the action free of any suspense but writers Fede Álvarez – who co-wrote and directed the first movie – and Rodo Sayagues.- who co-wrote both and directed this one – have seemingly had the misguided idea of making the villain of the first movie into the hero of the second. Norman Nordstrom may have been the victim of a burglary but he gave as good as he got and showed those pesky kids a thing or two about what happens when you break into the house of a blind man who has a lot of cash on the premises, a military background and a psychotic mindset.
In this movie, Norman has rescued a young girl named Phoenix (Madelyn Grace) from a house fire and is raising her as his daughter, more or less keeping her prisoner and not letting her out to go to school or play with other children. He does, however, let her out to run an errand with army ranger Hernandez (Stephanie Arcila) and that is when the slimy Raylan (Brendan Sexton III) attempts to snatch her, but he is foiled by Norman’s Rottweiler. Doesn’t stop him following Hernandez and Phoenix back home, though, and the event is set for Raylan and his goons to break in and kidnap Phoenix from Norman, which may sound easy but the unhinged former soldier is not such a pushover, as we already know.
So it is very obvious that with Don’t Breathe 2 Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues are trying to create a franchise with an antihero who may be a horrible and extremely dangerous nutcase but he’s (arguably) not as bad as the people trying to break into his house (again). The trouble is, with the first movie they made Norman so unlikeable and threatening – let us not forget, he raped Jane Levy’s character with a turkey baster full of his semen in order for her to have a child to replace his own daughter who was killed in a car accident – that you were rooting for the young scallywags who were just after some easy cash to get away – and now we’re supposed to be cheering for him as he goes full Rambo on the wannabe kidnappers? Granted, the kills are pretty well rendered as eyes get gouged out, jaws get smashed and Norman is somehow capable of throwing live electric wires at a leaking gas bottle in the basement whilst ducking behind a table and deflecting the blast, but at some point you have to question why the writers thought this was a good idea for what is essentially the setup for a series following the continuing adventures of Norman and his uncanny lack of appeal as a leading character.
Stephan Lang is fine as Norman, although his voice is less croaky than in the first movie as obviously the filmmakers want the audience to relate to the blind rapist/murderer more, plus sometimes he seems to be superhuman and can pinpoint exactly where his attackers are and at other times he stumbles around like the elderly blind man he is supposed to be, the inconsistency at least making each confrontation a little bit of a guessing game.
With the attacking gang as nondescript as the supervillains’ goons in the 1960s Batman TV show, Don’t Breathe 2 is disappointing in that it feels forced and padded out, and that the filmmakers assume audiences are going to latch onto Norman Nordstrom as a character we would want to follow and, by default, get behind to see off the ‘baddies’ that just won’t leave him alone. Don’t Breathe worked as a taut thriller with a horror edge – Don’t Breathe 2 may as well have been titled Don’t Bother.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★/ Movie: ★ ★