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Friday, August 26, 2016

Don't Breathe 2016 * * * 1/2 Stars

Don't BreatheDirector: Fede Alvarez
Year: 2016
Rated R
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette

In Don't Breathe, one of the main characters is a blind Army veteran. At the beginning of the film, he is seen walking with a standard, blind man's cane. Cut to the last act and it's as if the filmmakers forgot that the dude even lost his own vision. Also in "Breathe", every actor/actress gets severely tortured, beaten, or thrown up against a wall. They get up, dust themselves off, and forge on. Now could any human being survive this kind of carnage? Not a chance in my book. Anyway, these two factors are the only points I shaved off my rating for one of the best releases of 2016.

Don't Breathe in essence, seems like a great title for the film I'm about to review. If you choose to check out a screening, you'll be so enthralled you'll forget to um, "breathe" and possibly chew off every fingernail on both hands.

Image result for Don't breathe movie scenes"Breathe's" director is Fede Alvarez. He made the forgettable remake Evil Dead. Here, he goes from amateur status to almost genius status in a little over three years. Fede comes back with a vengeance giving us one of the most effective thrillers I've seen in a long time. He fits every plot point neatly in place, supplies efficacious close-ups, provides camerawork that feels Brian De Palma-lite, and throws lots of genuine twists and turns at you. And just when you think Don't Breathe is about to end, it just keeps going, relentless and interminable. Does that add to the flick's potency? Uh, you know it.

Notice that I labeled "Breathe" a thriller. That's what I believe it to be. Most critics and IMDb enthusiasts have saddled it as a horror fest. I go more with the latter route and it's a nasty and unforgiving one at that. At 88 minutes, "Breathe" is bloodily violent and stomach-turning but not in a demon sort of way. Instead, it absorbs you as if you've been in the theater for 2-plus hours. It's a little movie made on a tiny budget (under $10 million) but it nestles in your brain and has a big chip on its shoulder. If you're a fan of suspense and like simple agog, genre pleasures, Don't Breathe is the ticket. "Don't" hesitate to get your butt to the multiplex to see it. Natch.

Taking place in Detroit, Michigan (which is made to look like modern day Beirut), containing only a smidgen of actors, and produced by the legendary Sam Raimi, Don't Breathe is lean and mean with remnants of films like The Descent and Cujo to keep you floored. It has no real protagonist or hero. Everyone involved is a bad person in their own little way. The story is about three lawless thieves named Rocky (Reese Witherspoon lookalike Jane Levy), Money (Daniel Zovatto), and Alex (Dylan Minnette). They break into people's houses and are very successful at it until they meet their match trying to rob a guy simply known as "The Blind Man" (played nicely by Avatar's Stephen Lang). "The Blind Man" knows how to fire a gun, knows how to arm himself with fists, and obviously has darn good hearing. He senses these cocky kids are trying to steal a money settlement from him in his old, rundown house (the amount of the settlement is I guess, $300k). Bad move. "The Blind Man" kills one of the thieves (spoiler) and traps the other two in his abode until he is able to finish them off as well. "The Blind Man" with his snarly dog to aid him, also bolts everything up and turns his whole place into a fun house you'd find at an amusement park. Watch for a scene a la Silence of the Lambs in which he turns all the lights off so that his captors can experience what he experiences everyday. Also, check out the opening shot where a body is being dragged on a deserted street. You don't know what you're seeing until the camera eventually zooms in. Pretty unexpected.

Image result for Don't breathe movie scenesBottom line: Despite its minimal shortcomings, Don't Breathe is grubby, dirty, and darkened with above average performances. It is by turns original, indigenous, and tension-filled. A new classic. Rating: 3 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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