It would be difficult to argue that 2016’s Don’t Breathe did not make an impressive showing. In the past, a blind character would generally be the sympathetic underdog to a bunch of house invaders, but in the film, the Blind Man (Stephen Lang: Tombstone 1993, Avatar 2009) was the villain. Kind of. The teens who wanted to steal from him were not exactly angels, but the Blind Man had some rather messed-up skeletons in his closet.
So it is kind of a surprise to learn he is the protagonist for the sequel, Don’t Breathe 2, which was released in cinemas as well as on digital services beginning August 13, 2021 thanks to Sony Pictures Releasing. The first film’s co-writer, Rodo Sayagues (Panic Attack 2009, Evil Dead 2013), returns as writer-director, alongside his original co-writer Fede Alvarez (El Cojonudo 2005, Calls 2021). This time around, the pair is armed with a fresh story and the Blind Man has a new set of foes to deal with.
The story takes place eight years after the first film. The Blind Man, real name Norman Nordstrom (Lang), has been living in an isolated cabin with Phoenix (Madalyn Grace: The Orville series, Bunk’d series), an 11-year old he adopted after her parents died in a house fire. Phoenix wants to see the outside world and make friends, but ends up catching the eye of Raylan (Brendan Sexton III: Empire Records 1995, Boys Don’t Cry 1999) and his gang. He and his crew ambush the cabin and prepare to kidnap Phoenix, little knowing what they are up against.
The story is rather interesting, in that, the audience will largely root for Nordstrom against the gang, but then Raylan will bring up a twist in the story’s tale and leave them doubting themselves until the next twist. Neither Nordstrom or Raylan are good guys, really. The audience just has to watch the whole thing before figuring out whose got the lighter and darker shades of grey.
The protect-the-child aspect of the plot makes it feel more like an Action film than a Horror film. It has Horror-style direction with the moody lighting (sickly yellows, hellish reds) and the style of gore and violence shown. There are some suspenseful scenes with the comparatively more frail Phoenix, yet the audience will be less on edge trying to see how she escapes and more hoping the big Blind Man will come through. Not that this direction makes it a bad film, just a heads-up for those bigger into chills than spills.
Especially as the action is good, for the most part, with some creative uses of tools (e.g. superglue, water hoses) that add to the tension. Though once the second half of the film starts, it gets more like standard Action fare with guns, knives, etc. They are still alright, particularly when they work around Nordstrom’s blindness, but the action scenes’ energy ebbs down when the narrative reaches its climax.
The acting is alright too. Lang really sells his performance as the Blind Man, balancing that threatening side with the character’s softer side, as well. The rest of the cast are no slouches, with the gang having some good interactions with each other; they fill their roles convincingly and keep the story going. It is just that Lang is ultimately the top dog of the bunch here.
Which makes the top-billed actor, the action scenes, and some pretty good storytelling the biggest pros in Don’t Breathe 2’s package that make the sequel an entertaining and interesting follow-up to the original. However, the somewhat lagging second half and its more typical action movie tropes keeps the film from being a slam-dunk. Instead, it is more of a three-pointer, a good shot that hits the mark. That is why Cryptic Rock gives this sequel 3.5 out 5 stars.