Movie Review: ‘Don’t Breathe 2’ And Interview With Star Brendan Sexton III

By James Lindorf

Heartbroken after the events of 2016’s surprise hit “Don’t Breathe,” Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) had given up all hope of reliving the connection he had with his daughter. However, after jumping eight years into the future, Norman is the overprotective father of 11-year-old Phoenix (Madelyn Grace). Norman couldn’t be happier, but Phoenix is starting to rebel against the forced isolation and constant training. When a second group of people is foolish enough to break into the home of the world’s deadliest blind man, they need every bit of training to survive the night. Uruguayan filmmakers Rodo Sayagues and Fede Alvarez co-wrote the script for “Don’t Breathe” with Alvarez directing; this time around, Sayagues takes his turn in the director’s chair. “Don’t Breathe 2” is currently showing at theaters around the world.

The original “Don’t Breathe” was one of the best and most profitable home invasion horror films in recent years. The financial success and fascination with the blind victim/villain demanded a sequel more than the story, even though it was possible. Fans hoping to see Rocky and Norman settle their score are out of luck as Jane Levy did not return for the sequel. Whether by her choosing or a decision in the writer’s room, her absence makes “Don’t Breathe 2” essentially a stand-alone film. It takes place in the same universe with its single recurring character, which means audiences need to be open to multiple changes. While change can be scary, Alvarez and Sayagues’ best decision was to expand the universe in cast size and the number of locations. This provided them with more freedom with the story and prevented them from just recreating the first movie. “Don’t Breathe 2” has a similar tone created by its look, sound, and violent nature. Still, it leans into action while the original focused on the horror and thriller elements.

While the overall cast is much larger, it still comes down to three characters. They are Lang’s blind navy seal, his “daughter,” and Raylan, the intruders’ ruthless leader, played by Brendan Sexton III (Russian Doll). Norman is easily the least interesting character emotionally. He is simple; he wants to protect his pseudo-daughter at all costs. Phoenix is an 11-year-old with a certain set of skills after all of Norman’s training. She is tough and resourceful in a way no kid should probably ever be, but the highlight of her day is a trip to the playground with kids from the nearby shelter. In a surprising move, it is Raylan that has the most complexity, and Sexton plays the role beautifully. From the opening scene, you think Raylan is after or motivated by one thing, and then his rationale and his motivations shifts and shifts again. Raylan is like an Onion. Onions have layers. Organ stealing, kidnapping, meth-dealing homicidal maniacs have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? They both have layers. The rest of the characters are 2-dimensional at best and could have used something to make them distinguishable from one another. Only one stands out on his own, and that is because of his attachment to a hammer.

Watching the movie, you can see a point where they almost take Norman to a supernatural level. Thankfully the pullback just short of making him a blind Michael Myers. As unlikely as it is, there seems to be no limit to what he is capable of, even in an unknown never felt around before location. If he had never been injured, he would make Rambo shake in his combat boots. Norman is still a tremendous physical presence and is more of a straightforward character this time around. He leaves all the out-of-left-field stuff to Raylan.

With its familiar elements and new action-driven levels of energy, the runtime flies by, and you are in the climax before you realize it. Alvarez and Sayagues may have made slight missteps or directly contradicted a thing or two from the first movie. Still, they have another very good, not quite as great as the first, installment of what could be a trilogy or more depending on your take on the after-credits scene. “Don’t Breathe 2” won’t fill that home invasion hole in your life, but it should thrill many fans who have been waiting five years for Norman to take on a new batch of criminals, earning it a 4 out of 5.

Rating: R (Strong Bloody Violence|Language|Gruesome Images)
Genre: Horror, Mystery & Thriller
Original Language: English
Director: Rodo Sayagues Mendez
Producer: Fede Alvarez, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert
Writer: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues Mendez
Release Date: August 13th, 2021
Runtime: 1h 38m

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