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When not hosting her talk show, Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson still occasionally acts in movies. A few years ago, she was deservedly nominated for an Academy Award for her captivating performance as Aretha Franklin; now she stars in yet another feature film. But Breathe is no Dreamgirls — or any of the other great films Jovovich has been in over the years, for that matter. Both women give it their all, but with underwritten male counterparts (Common and Worthington), they can only do so much. (Though to be fair, Worthington goes full-on maniacal by Act III.) Oh well.

In the last several years, rapper-turned-actor Common has shown off his acting chops more and more; he was hilariously hardcore in John Wick: Chapter 2 — especially that final shootout opposite Reeves’ Wick while they’re out in public; who could forget? More recently, his villainous turn on the Apple TV+ hit series Silo was one of the highlights of season 1. So it’s a bummer he’s only around for Act I of Breathe…and that’s about it. What a tease! But I get it: Stefon Bristol (See You Yesterday) wants to start off with a bang.

Darius is a conflicted dad navigating a conflicted Earth that no longer wants humans on its surface; oxygen isn’t exactly available in this futuristic dystopia. So Darius brings Maya (Hudson) and their teenage daughter Zora (Wallis) underground — down where Desmond lived on Lost, where they trick themselves into thinking they have beach views via digital windows and such — after experiencing personal tragedy at the hands of this crumbling world. He’s losing hope and needs to go above ground to find something better for his family.

As young Zora narrates from time to time, cinephiles may even hear hints of her intentionally childish voiceover work from her breakthrough film Beasts of the Southern Wild — a much better movie. Years later, Wallis did an unfortunately subpar Annie alongside Jamie Foxx. Breathe won’t be remembered either, but Wallis remains charming as ever throughout this one, especially once intruders start knocking on her character’s door…

One of the greatest Twilight Zone episodes of all time has young Robert Redford playing “Death” (surprise twist!) in the form of an injured police officer who repeatedly knocks on an old woman’s door; she won’t let him in because she knows her time is coming. In Breathe, Maya tries to shout away Tess (Jovovich) and her hotheaded pal Lucas (Worthington). But by now Darius has already gone topside, so it’s just the ladies fending for themselves down below…

Maya is quick-tongued but this is another one of the movie’s faults. Obviously, in the editing room, producers decided they wanted a PG-13 rating instead of an R-rating, so there are many times (like when Tess tries to go into Maya’s underground fortress) where Maya says “mother-freaking” instead of, you know, what she really would say. It just begs the question—why wash out the language here, when movies with R-ratings can still do huge business at the box office?

Worthington does his usual reliable thing; fresh off such highly regarded projects as Avatar: The Way of Water and Under the Banner of Heaven he clearly has a blast as wildcard Lucas gets more and more outrageous during the break-in at the fortress. Jovovich is something of a missed opportunity — we know she can be a bad-ass on screen but she comes across as too restrained and morally conflicted in Tess; indeed at times it’s almost like we’re thinking ‘Christ, when is she going to dust off that assault rifle and start taking names?!?’ Not that we want her shooting up this family in crisis — Hudson and Wallis make them all too easy to root for.

Regardless of how it concludes there is a clear opening here for a sequel but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. Too many missed chances first time round and too much of a contained feel means that Breathe will be quickly passed over by audiences who will instead turn their attention to other post-apocalyptic offerings which promise greater things – Children of Men or Blade Runner (both cited by Bristol as influences on Breathe interestingly enough). From Capstone Global and Warner Bros., Breathe is now available in theaters and on digital.

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