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With: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Emma Bercovici
Written by: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
MPAA Rating: R for terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references
Running Time: 88
Date: 08/26/2016

Don't Breathe (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Baiting to Exhale

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The first three-quarters of this simple, intense thriller are something close to masterful, and then it goes a little too far over the top, with an outlandish reveal and elements of torture and gore.

In Don't Breathe, three down-and-out, desperate Detroit dwellers, the social outcast "Money" (Daniel Zovatto), his girlfriend Rocky (Jane Levy), and the clean-cut, worrying Alex (Dylan Minnette), have a scheme. They rob houses using keys and codes stolen from Alex's father's job at a security company.

But when they learn about an old, blind war veteran (Stephen Lang) who keeps several hundred thousand dollars in his house, they figure it can be their "one last final score." Rocky desires to get her young daughter out of town and away from her abusive mother, while Alex has unrequited feelings for Rocky and wishes to join her. Unfortunately, their simple plan turns nasty when the old man turns out to be something more than a meek victim.

Director Fede Alvarez (the 2013 Evil Dead remake), starts Don't Breathe with nary a misstep, using the desolate Detroit locations to strong effect, and establishing the space of the old man's house clearly and concisely, never resorting to shaky-cam.

Additionally, the crisp sound design highlights every creak and crack of the house, without an overuse on music. Character development is slight, but at least the Rocky character (Jane Levy) is sympathetic, with abuse in her past, and a desire to protect her daughter. But whereas all of this is brilliantly sustained, suggesting a trust in the audience, the movie then betrays it by unleashing a ridiculous backstory for the old man, as well as unnecessarily heightened violence. A bit more thought could have made this a suspense classic, but at least it's nearly there.

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