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Review: Absurd 'Don't Breathe 2' on life support

Courtesy of Sony


Another day, another buffer sequel on the schedule to help goose balance sheets for a cash deprived studio amid rising health concerns. Enter the inexpensive “Don’t Breathe 2,” the sequel to Fede Alvarez’s 2016 sleeper hit that ended on a cheesy cliffhanger all but setting up another round in the ring with Stephan Lang’s blind killing machine. Whereas the original film, a late August surprise, reimagined the home invasion thriller-what if a group of untrained, out of their league, burglars chose to rob the home of a senile, blind man who ended up being an ex Navy Seal with a kidnapped woman in his basement in which he artificially inseminated with a turkey baster-Rodo Sayagues’s lean follow-up boldly askes the audiences to sympathize and root for this psychopath.

The main premise of “Don’t Breathe 2” involves Lang’s Norman Nordstrom eight years after the events of “Don’t Breathe” taking care of young Phoenix (Madelyn Grace) after a house fire leaves her stranded and without a home. That’s right, Norman is a father-figure: cooking dinner, home schooling, and running the young tyke through a series of vigorous traps and escape routes in the event someone tries to kidnap her. Confused? Me too. Alvarez, a great filmmaker who successfully remade “The Evil Dead,” retains producer and co-writing credit this time around, and Sayagues stages some elaborate tracking shots, but “Don’t Breathe 2” can’t shake off its cheap blandness.

Where things get even weirder involves a squad of bad guys trying to snatch Phoenix from Norman’s care and a battle with knives, garden implements, and super sonic hearing unfolds, but Sayagues flips the switch halfway through, showing the perspective of the intruders and their prime motivations are so absurd it almost works. Unlike “Don’t Breathe” where the culprits, still reprehensible for their crimes, at least had a desperate reason for breaking into Nordstrom’s abode in the shaky Detroit climate. Here, the band of misfits, lead with a snarl by Brendan Sexton III, objective induces eye rolls more than shock. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been as looney had the film managed to create some base component of suspense, but none such tension exists as the film zooms to its hurried finale where Nordstrom goes toe-to-toe in an all-out bloody brawl trying to save Phoenix.

Lang remains a hulking, physically dominant actor, but his performance can’t address the elephant in the room: Why in the world am I rooting for a rapist and murderer? Just because he shows mercy to a dog and grows a conscience, we’re supposed to absolve his sins? As “The Suicide Squad” proved, you can root for an anti-hero struggling with their own ethical compass, but “Don’t Breathe 2” doesn’t shift through the moral conundrums enough to elevate it above schlock. It has no wind in its sails, is stuck in a vacuum of its own violation, and should’ve never been given life in the first place.

Grade: D-

DON’T BREATHE 2 is now playing only in theaters.


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