Film Review: Stephen Lang’s blind protagonist returns in Don’t Breathe 2

MANILA, PHILIPPINES —The loss of any of the five senses oftentimes results in a person losing confidence in themselves and being called disabled. Sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell are so intrinsic for any human being that the loss of any of them can be debilitating. As the film Don’t Breathe showed in 2016 however, a blind protagonist under assault in his own home can prove to be quite dangerous. Thus, the blind man portrayed by Stephen Lang returns in Don’t Breathe 2.

Five years after the events of the first film, blind Navy Seal veteran Norman Nordstrom (Lang) now resides in a home in suburban Detroit, Michigan. With him is 11-year-old Phoenix (Madelyn Grace) and his Rottweiler, Shadow. Nordstrom has told Phoenix that her mother died in a fire in their old house, but the girl still wants to be with more people her age.


Every so often, he lets former U.S. Army Ranger Hernandez (Stephanie Arcila) stop by their home and take Phoenix into town with her. On one particular occasion, a shady character attempts to kidnap Phoenix but Shadow scares him away. On the news, it is reported that some criminal activity involving kidnapping and harvesting of organs has been happening around the Detroit area.

When the dubious character and his associates follow Hernandez as she drops Phoenix off, they plan on taking the girl and are not planning on anyone, not even a blind old man, get in their way. As Nordstrom prepares to protect his home and his adoptive daughter, the truth about Phoenix’s birth and how she entered Nordstrom’s life begin to be revealed.

Director Rodo Sayagues reunited with co-writer Fede Alvarez to bring the hardly helpless Norman Nordstrom back after Don’t Breathe captured an audience five years ago. While Alvarez directed the first film and they both wrote it, it was Sayagues in the director’s chair this time around. The unique selling proposition of that first film, seemingly vulnerable blind man becomes the victim of a trio of thieves but proves to be more than a handful, captured the imagination of people and Lang’s believable performance turned the now-69-year-old actor into an action star.

Despite the strange twist at the end of that first film involving rape and kidnapping, the suspense, the scenarios, the surprisingly intelligent and persistent dog all were enough to generate $157.1 million worldwide despite having a modest $9.9 million production budget. As with anything from Hollywood, it seemed inevitable that a sequel would follow.

The filmmakers don’t shy away from what Nordstrom was doing at the end of Don’t Breathe, as he admits kidnapping and raping in his past. There is no explanation given for how he was able to have a new home and could recognize its hallways as well as the adjacent greenhouse with ease, perhaps attributing that to the five year gap between films instead.

Although Lang was still enjoyable to watch as he brought down vengeance on his attackers and the would-be kidnappers of Phoenix, the same cannot be said for the rest of the cast of Don’t Breathe 2. While Grace is alright as the child being fought over by the blind man and the gangsters, the other characters seem cartoonish by comparison.

The character of Reylan (Brendan Saxton III) has a streak of white hair and that is apparently enough to convince Phoenix that he is her real father. The group of thugs played by Adam Young, Bobby Schofield, and Rocci Williams are so over-the-top and one-dimensional in their evil that they are largely forgettable. If this was deliberate on the part of the filmmakers to make the audience root for their deaths at the hands of Nordstrom, then sure, they succeeded in that sense.

Not completely ignoring how the Rottweiler in Don’t Breathe proved to be a menacing and relentless pursuer, Sayagues and Alvarez introduced another dog in this sequel after the first is killed by the villains. The character of Nordstrom seems to have an affinity with these mean dogs, and it does not take long for him to get the dog on his side after it initially tries to kill him.

The plot about kidnapping Phoenix to harvest her heart in order to save her dying meth-addict mother will easily make your eyes roll in its ridiculousness. As a doctor friend mentioned recently, Hollywood and these filmmakers need to be aware that you can’t do successful organ transplants in unsterile conditions. These are just some of the things that are very wrong with Don’t Breathe 2.

It’s still fun to see a blind man terrorize bad guys who think they’re going to take advantage of his disability and hand them gruesome deaths, but the logic around most of this film’s plots and subplots leave a lot to be desired. Even as Nordstrom eventually sets Phoenix free after his confession at the end, a mid-credits scene would have the audience believe that perhaps he survives to make yet another sequel. If that does come to pass, hopefully the writers and director devote more time to logic instead of sacrificing it for some cheap thrills.

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