If there’s one lesson to learn from Don’t Breathe 2, the sequel to the surprisingly good home-invasion film of 2016, it’s this…don’t live in Detroit. Okay, there’s more to it than that, but these two films have focused on the dreary side of town with a mixture of abandoned buildings and few likable characters. That’s sort of the point. Hardly anyone is simply innocent, and after the events of the first film, many may feel surprised that we are expected to follow the Blind Man (Stephen Lang) as a sort of anti-hero in this decent sequel.
Knowledge of the first film is helpful. In that film, a trio of robbers broke into the Blind Man’s house to rob him…blind, and we almost can root for him until it’s revealed he has kidnapped and imprisoned a woman in his basement to give him a new daughter, after his own daughter dies. Now, years later, he has adopted a young girl that he trains relentlessly with skills for survival. She is rarely allowed to leave the house and the old guy struggles to talk and keep her from running away. Do we care about the Blind Man? That’s a question you can answer. I don’t think the film paints him as some saint we simply root for, but rather makes us question when to be excited, when to be worried; not necessarily about him, but about the girl Phoenix (Madelyn Grace) that he is trying to protect from a group of thugs that attack their isolated home.
Lang gives another great performance and there is brutality to spare. Like many sequels, the natural flow is bigger means better. More deaths, more violence, and more twists in the plot. The home-invasion feels a bit more standard this time, more akin to action-heavy beats than the sequences of silence in the original. Fede Alvarez has taken a producer credit this time, and it kind of feels like it, though Rodo Sayagues makes a fine film in his own way.
Perhaps that’s just the trap of sequels. We know what the Blind Man has done and what his motivations are. When he admits to raping and killing people, we already are fully aware, but it’s moments like that which acknowledge we aren’t following a hero’s journey. We root for the girl caught between these violent people inhabiting the world, knowing her adoptive father is her best chance of survival. Or he may just be a lucky charm. There was at least one scene that made me frustrated as I couldn’t fathom why the thugs didn’t simply fire their weapons. Such moments make me feel like this film could’ve been a bit tighter.
If you want a continuation of the original film, then this is a decent follow-up. Tailor the expectations, or allow your memory of the original to fade slightly since the hide-and-seek aspect isn’t as fun to watch here. There is impressive cinematography and a few suspenseful conundrums though. Fans of bleak media like the game The Last of Us will probably enjoy this one as well. All I know is that it’s a dark world we live in, and this film reminds us of that, for better or worse.
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