“The whole neighborhood’s f-ing empty,” says teen burglar “Money” (Daniel Zovatto). “This guy’s the last man standing.” Money’s talking to girlfriend Rocky (Jane Levy) and friend Alex (Dylan Minnette). “Let’s do it tonight, bro. It’s going to be a piece of cake.” The three have heard about an old man who lives alone at 1837 Buena Vista, has $300K in hard cash, and is blind. That’s the set-up for this exercise in night-time teen breaking-and-entering, burglary, vengeance and violence, set in a dilapidated, dark house.
Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto play the principal characters in this tightly focused thriller. Lang is nameless “Blind Man,” devastated by family tragedies and consumed by revenge. Levy, Minnette and Zovatto are young burglars, inept, argumentative and terrified. Rocky wants money to escape Detroit and her abusive family; Money wants drugs and thrills; Alex wants only to escape alive.
Others in the small cast include Franciska Torocsik as Cindy — a spoiler if I describe her character — and Athos, Astor and Nomad as the vicious dog.
“Don’t Breathe” is a suspense thriller — three teenagers trapped at night in a run-down house in an abandoned Detroit neighborhood with a mentally deranged, dangerous blind man. Fede Alvarez directed from his spare script, written with Rodo Sayagues. Pedro Luque deserves praise for elegant and scary camera work, but Alvarez and Sayagues must take blame for plot holes and one-dimensional characters. Third-act confessions and motivations don’t help much: “There’s nothing a man won’t do,” says Lang’s blind man, “when he knows there is no god.” Still, look for smart visual touches: upside-down framed photograph on the mantel, home movie on a bedroom TV and Rocky’s encounter with a ladybug. Crucial, however, for thrillers like this are characters whom an audience cares about. Alex comes close to the “good kid” role and Rocky, to the “final girl,” but both are seriously flawed. Without Alex breaking into his father’s home-security business, there’d be no keys and no burglaries, and Rocky’s backstory undercuts her likability despite an over-the-top final confrontation with the bad guy. And, of course, she wants the stolen money.
Rated R for terror, violence, disturbing content, sexual references and language, “Don’t Breathe” runs 88 minutes. If you see it, talk about its many plot holes, unorthodox ending and whether it really is, as it’s been marketed, a “horror” film or, at times, something closer to “torture-porn.” That is, if you see it. It’s not a film I can recommend for entertainment.
Three teens in a dark house
With sightless, vengeful father —
Suspense, violence, plot holes;
See “Don’t Breathe”? Don’t bother.