Review: Don’t Breathe 2 (2021)

  • Director: Rodo Sayagues
  • Writer: Rodo Sayagues
  • Stars: Stephen Lang, Madelyn Grace

Review

It’s always difficult to redeem the irredeemable, even though such a universal theme is cake to a movie audience. But here comes Norman Nordstrom, the blind Navy Seal and ultimate bad guy played by Stephen Lang, a reclusive sexagenarian we met in the first Don’t Breathe (you can see my review of that film here: https://haddonfieldhorror.com/2016/09/10/dont-breathe-a-jolt-at-the-box-office/), looking to redeem his horrid past by embracing his new role as surrogate father to an orphaned young girl. From recluse to ultimate survivalist, Nordstrom and his “daughter” Phoenix (Madelyn Grace) have traded their decrepit urban home from the first film for a rural home, where Norman subjects Phoenix to what I can only call home schooled bootcamp.

Phoenix’s life is clearly not idyllic, but it is ostensibly safe, until she is – while en route with a friend to do errands in the city – accosted by a stranger named Raylan (Brendan Sexton III) and his team of thugs. It appears Raylan is interested in the young teen for her age, giving Phoenix (and the audience) the impression he is a pedophile or human trafficker. But his intentions (I will not spoil that here, but it has something to do with the drug trade) will be made clear when he and his gang follow Phoenix home, subduing Nordstrom and leaving him for dead, and bringing Phoenix back to an unknown, but clearly abandoned city dwelling.

What ensues is an obvious, but convincing plot device. Part revenge, part fatherly instinct, we know Nordstrom is now in a fight to find his daughter, and blindness, which for anyone seems to be the most debilitating, has been supplanted by his sense of rage.

The rage is of course the fun of the film. Yes, it is a brutal one. Stephen Lang sells the old man seeking revenge trope better than most in his acting cohort, and the film’s direction and cinematography capture the intense violence and stealth while maintaining the darkness – both literal and figurative – that made the first film as scary as it is suspenseful.

More mainstream reviews have noted that a character like Nordstrom’s is too vile to root for. That’s fair, but what is a good horror if not bending the rules of heroism? My one complaint is that the film’s plot, especially the final act, is eerily similar to the beloved action film The Professional, which is downright odd. But the parallels are obvious: Girl loses her family and seeks refuge with older man (one is an assassin, the other an ex-navy seal); both films focus on the economics and violence of drug dealing; armed men (cops in one; bad guys in another) all seeking one man in an abandoned building (heck, there’s even a sequence in both films where subordinates ask the main antagonist how many people to get for backup, prompting the excellent Gary Oldman to exclaim: “Everyyyyyoooonee!!!”, while Raylan’s half-baked answer is “All of them!”); well, you get the point.

Still, fans of the first film, and even those new to what appears to be a franchise in the making, will find something redeemable: an entertaining horror movie.  

Eric Dinsmore | Twitter: @EllipsisWords

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