Don’t Breathe 2 review: a great action film buried in a so-so exploitation movie

Don’t Breathe 2, the newly launched follow-up to 2016’s horror-thriller directed by Fede Alvarez, is sort of a sloppy Joe made with finely aged wagyu beef. Is it pleasurable? Sure, but it surely’s additionally gross and morally questionable. And extra importantly, it’s laborious to not think about all the higher issues rookie director Rodo Sayagues, who additionally co-wrote this film and the unique, may have made with components this good.

The primary Don’t Breathe follows a gaggle of youngsters who break into the house of blind veteran Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) to steal his small fortune. They don’t understand he’s an ex-Navy Seal who’s offended on the world for his daughter’s tragic, unintended demise, and he turns their tried theft right into a nightmare cat-and-mouse state of affairs. Norman’s resentment of the intruders could also be comprehensible, however he does reprehensible issues within the movie, making selections that don’t enable for later redemption. His horrific actions grasp round Don’t Breathe 2 like an albatross for the primary hour or so, as the brand new story continues to comply with him.

Norman Nordstrom listening intently in Don’t Breathe 2

Picture: Sony Photos

Within the sequel, Norman finds a younger lady named Phoenix (Madelyn Grace) exterior of a burning home, and takes her in as his daughter. He homeschools her and teaches her survival abilities, however after eight years, a mysterious group of individuals come to his home to kidnap Phoenix, setting him as much as as soon as once more defend his dwelling from intruders.

Like the primary film, Don’t Breathe 2 is at its creepiest when all of its characters are trapped inside Norman’s home. Sayagues creates distinctive stress, comfortably exploiting lengthy stretches of quiet, and letting characters creep into and out of in any other case static photographs.

In a single notably efficient scene, Phoenix tries to flee the home simply because the would-be kidnappers arrive. Sayagues snakes the cameras by means of the slender hallways, rigorously dodging between Phoenix’s stealthy escape, and the bewildered intruders looking for her. It’s extremely intense, earlier than it’s damaged up by the reduction of Norman’s first actual motion within the film — although many extra comply with.

Norman Nordstrom grabbing an intruder in Don’t Breathe 2

Picture: Sony Photos

Don’t Breathe performs out like a slasher, with the teenagers as the principle characters, and Norman because the ruthlessly environment friendly hunter. However the sequel is nearer to an motion film, with Norman and his assailants buying and selling blows at each confrontation. These motion scenes are the place Sayagues proves himself most succesful. The scenes are uniquely lit and staged, each in Norman’s home and out of it, with sluggish, purposeful digital camera work that places additional emphasis on the load behind every punch and stab. Lang can also be excellent at portraying Norman’s physicality, and he throws his total weight behind each hit the character will get and provides. Each combat on this film appears to be like prefer it hurts.

Whereas the time inside Norman’s home is great, and appears like a intelligent echo of the primary film’s first half, the second half as soon as once more will get bizarre. The motion shifts elsewhere, and the tone shifts into a wholly new style, taking a tough flip from a creeping thriller into an exploitation film. The brand new setting nearly seems post-apocalyptic: It’s an deserted constructing that the film’s home-invading villains have arrange as a base. It’s dilapidated and crumbling round them, as if their numerous horrible deeds — it turns on the market are fairly a number of — are actually pulling the plaster of the constructing down round them. It’s a haunting location for Sayagues to discover, but it surely nearly pulls the film too far down into the muck.

From right here, Don’t Breathe 2 turns dirty and rotten, and it turns into clear that the script’s manner out of Norman’s horrible deeds within the unique film is solely to make everybody else on this planet even worse. As an alternative of creating Norman extra sympathetic, the film merely slides into ethical repugnancy. With the primary film’s context in thoughts, it’s unattainable to need anybody right here to win. In actual fact, the film even manages to pivot from its first half’s extreme seriousness right into a pitch-black comedy for the second, just by having every character discover newer lows to sink to.

Stephen Lang’s character holding a hammer in Don’t Breathe 2

Picture: Sony Photos

One factor that doesn’t change within the second half is Sayagues’ improbable motion route. The whole church feels designed solely to make the film’s fights extra thrilling. Electrical rooms are bathed in blue gentle, with a skinny layer of water overlaying the ground. It’s an OSHA nightmare, but it surely’s cool as hell, and the hazards give Norman a preventing probability in opposition to his non-visually-impaired assailants. One other scene covers an deserted pool (why is there an indoor pool right here? What sort of constructing is that this?) in orange sunset-light, filtered by means of a cloud of insecticide gasoline, whereas two characters sq. off with knives and machetes.

All of it appears to be like attractive, but additionally prefer it’s from a wholly totally different film than something that precedes it. The grindhouse-grime of the villains’ plot and the exploitation-level gore, which might be at dwelling in one other model of this film, feels prefer it diminishes Sayagues’ borderline-arthouse motion scenes.

All of which makes Don’t Breathe 2 right into a bizarre bundle that by no means totally meshes collectively. It’s too fairly for a midnight displaying, however far too gross and skin-crawling for when the solar’s up. It may have both been a beautiful connoisseur action-movie meal, or a greasy joyful mess that cult audiences love greater than they need to. As an alternative, it’s someplace within the center — a reasonably good meal that doesn’t measure as much as its particular person components.

Don’t Breathe 2 opens in theaters on Aug. 13. | Don’t Breathe 2 assessment: an ideal motion movie buried in a so-so exploitation film


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