Director Rodo Sayagues
Screenplay Rodo Sayagues, Fede Álvarez
Starring Stephen Lang, Brendan Sexton III, Madelyn Grace, Stephanie Arcila
When the trailer for Don’t Breathe 2 reached audiences, a minor stir happened as everyone thought they’d seen the villain of the first film, Lange’s Norman Nordstrom, live long enought to not only become a hero, but a father. Filmmakers implored audiences to see the film in order to get the full context. Having seen the film, this viewer can confirm that everyone’s suspiscions are indeed correct.
The Navy Seal vetran and onetime husband and father, later turned kidnapper, rapist and murderer has found a child after a house explodes in a methlab fire. He takes the kid in and raises her as his own in the rundown suburbs of Detroit. Eight years later, Phoenix (Grace) is a confident 11 year old who understands her birth mother diesd in a fire at their old house.
Norman has only one friend, a former Army Ranger named Hernandez, who takes Phoenix on errands occasionally, so she can get a sense of what she is missing out. During one of these trips, the child comes across someone who knows who she really is, and attempts to abduct her but is scared away by the family Rottweiler, Shadow. This won’t be the last attempt.
What is interesting about Don’t Breathe 2 is Lang’s willingness to portray such a complicated figure. We know he’s not a good dude, but he’s also not as bad as, say, a gang of ruthless meth dealers. His raising of Phoenix is out of a pure willingness to give of himself that very thing that had been robbed of him with the death of his own family years ago. While we’re repulsed at his brutal nature, viewers can see quite clearly that his nature is giving, if paranoid.
What is not interesting about this film is almost everything else. The people tracking him down have to be those of absolutely no value to society. Even if we are given a moment to think it may be the right of their leader to get the young girl back, there is no question her lot in life will not improve if she is abducted.
The strength of the first film is that we know very little of Norman. We only know that other Detroit area scumbags broke into his house and almost everyone of them didn’t live long enough to regret it. The feeling of claustrophobia helps with the understanding that the house is rigged in Norman’s favor and not any of theirs.
There is little of this feeling here. The firepower of the intruders this time is such that it doesn’t matter what Norman’s house has in store for them. There is little nuance to the proceedings. When he lands a blow, it feels more like plot mechanics than anything.
Unlike the first film, there is little to redeem any of the characters outide of Norman’s small circle. While it’s nice to see him make friends with a dog that minutes ago was trying to kill him, it doesn’t pass the sniff test.
If you like Lange, you will more than likely appreciate some elements of the film. It’s understandable that he’d go through another round of killing for the chance to spout a not-quite Shakespearian sonnet towards the climax. It means less when we realize there will be another round. Of course those who read my review of the first film understand that each subsequent sequel just takes away from the previous film. Then again, there’s a lot of Eminem types left in Detroit.
(** out of *****)