Director Fede Alvarez did his first movie in 2013 with his remake of The Evil Dead. It was so bad, me and another film critic walked out in the middle of it. Well, Alvarez’s sophomore effort is the thriller Don’t Breathe. For those that remember the classic Audrey Hepburn, ‘60s movie Wait Until Dark (with an evil Alan Arkin), it’s a similar premise. Bad guys can easily rob a blind person, right? Well, not if that blind person is a muscular Gulf War vet (Stephen Lang). Remember how bad-ass he was in Avatar?
What made Wait Until Dark work so well is that we felt so scared for Hepburn. She didn’t realize the drug dealers had put their stash in a teddy bear she had at the airport. They were convinced she had it.
The problem with this movie is that you hate the three criminals that break into this guy’s house. You’re rooting for them to get caught and tortured. Of course, you’re supposed to be on their side. That’s because Rocky (Jane Levy, the star of Evil Dead) has a horrible home life. Her mom sits around drinking with a loser boyfriend. She wants to leave Detroit for a better life for her and her kid sister in California. Can’t blame her for that. The problem is that her boyfriend is really no different from the one her mother is seeing. His name is Money (Daniel Zovatto from It Follows; this movie, like It Follows, was filmed in Detroit). He’s got dollar sign tattoos on his neck. We don’t like him for a million reasons, and with his cocky attitude, we’re pretty sure he’s going to be the first of the trio taken out.
Alex (Dylan Minnette from Goosebumps) is the “nice guy.” The least reluctant to break into houses, he just wants Rocky to have a better life. He even wants to go with her to California. Yet, it’s his dad’s security company that provides the keys to easily gain access to the lavish homes. He also realizes Rocky is seeing Money (why does it sound like I’m describing a boxing movie?). So it’s hard to sympathize with this dope, simply because he’s mad that Money brought a gun to the break-in.
When this trio of dunces find out about a huge settlement this war vet got when his daughter was killed, they figure he’s got the money stashed somewhere in the house. Not sure why they don’t assume it’s at a bank, but…that’s one of a handful of plot holes. Two problems they face early on is the big, aggressive dog in the back yard and the multiple locks on the doors and windows. That doesn’t deter them, though. And since an early scene with the dog scared the crap out of the audience (I jumped about five feet), we’re pretty sure he’ll be making another appearance later. It reminded me of the much better Green Room (Patrick Stewart) from a few months ago.
The premise of this story is great, and when we see everything in the house…it’s also intriguing. We see a bunch of tools, which reminded me of how Bruce Willis couldn’t decide which weapon to use in the pawn shop rape scene in Pulp Fiction.
When the blind guy wakes up and starts wandering around, we’re on the edge of our seats. Unfortunately, things go downhill fast. Not just for the trio, but the script.
Lang has a terrific presence, but the weird sounds he kept making, and his voice…just seemed bizarre and contrived. He was blind, not a deaf mute.
The score, by composer Roque Banos, added the right amount of tension in some scenes. It’s also nice that they didn’t overdo it. In one scene, it did sound a bit too much like the Mission: Impossible theme.
The cinematographer, Pedro Luque, did well with the house as a set piece; and when there’s a scene in complete darkness, we were still able to see the action. It reminded me of how intense it was when Jodie Foster put on the night vision goggles in Silence of the Lambs.
Another problem with this movie is that you don’t buy any of the scenarios. Right from the start, the way these characters are talking, just didn’t feel authentic. Heck, they don’t even look like three kids from Detroit; especially the one that’s trying to act like the tough guy from the street, with his goofy cornrows.
The first half of the movie was interesting enough, but the second half just became the typical genre film. That’s a shame, because it had possibilities. Especially with Lang as a menacing figure (and a vicious dog for a sidekick).
If you saw the trailers and this looked like your type of film, you won’t be disappointed. Unfortunately, I was.
1 star out of 5.