Movie Review: Gasp, gurgle, smash and slash — “Don’t Breathe 2”

“Don’t Breathe 2” is the most gruesomely violent major motion picture since, well, “The Suicide Squad.”

A sequel to a horrific thriller that demonstrated the chilling power of silence, co-creators Rodo Sayagues (who takes the directing credit this time) and co-writer Fede Alvarez opt for a bloodbath this time around as they flip the script and make the victim/villain of the first film the avenging hero of the second.

That would be Stephen Lang‘s ex-Navy SEAL Norman Nordstrom, a blind man who is not to be trifled with in a fight in the dark.

The stakes are higher, from the start, but the plot is nonsense that sounds like a Red Bull-fueled brainstorming story meeting where they kept every idea anybody tossed out.

Our gang of unsuspecting villains are meth cookers serving the hellscape of Detroit’s infamous organ harvester, a doctor (Steffan Rhodri) who forgot his Hippocratic Oath long ago. Oddly, that plot element is pretty much pushed aside.

Because the gang leader, Raylan (Brendan Sexton III), who oozes menace from every smelly, oily pore, if on the prowl for someone, perhaps the tween girl (Madelyn Grace) he checks out at a public restroom.

We’ve seen Miss Phoenix “training” with her Dad (Lang) in the opening scene. They may live in Detroit’s pyromania belt, but she’s at home on the mean streets thanks to that training.

“Never take anything for granted,” he counsels. “God will take it from you.”

But with Dad and their pet Rottweiler looking out for her and even home-schooling her, what could go wrong? A home invasion and night of slaughter, mayhem, fire and firearms, for starters.

Lang brings what dignity he can to Nordstrom, sort of a “blind swordsman” figure, only with a darker past, some of which we saw in the first film, some suggested by revelations here.

Grace is decent at playing the child-in-peril, but doesn’t give us the unadulterated terror of the “hunted” in “Don’t Breathe.” Nobody does.

The giant hole at the heart of this twisted tangent of a sequel is the silence. In “Don’t Breathe,” the young interlopers who broke into the blind man’s house, only to be hunted down in near pitch darkness, had to hold their breath to avoid detection. That spread to the audience, breathlessly anticipating how the man with heightened other senses would track his prey.

There’s virtually none of that here. The villains have no learning curve, never figure out that white noise is their ally as much as turning the lights on could be.

And despite the savagery of the fights, there’s nothing satisfying in this slaughter, a movie which spills blood and spatters gore because it’s out of other ideas.

Rating: R for strong bloody violence, gruesome images, and language

Cast: Stephen Lang, Madelyn Grace, Brendan Sexton III, Stephanie Arcila and Adam Young

Credits: Directed by Rodo Sayagues, script by Fede Alvarez and
Rodo Sayagues. A Sony Screen Gems release.

Running time: 1:38

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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