'Breaking In': Film Review
Gabrielle Union stars as a badass mother under siege in James McTeigue's thriller.
Give credit where it's due to the flimsy home-invasion thriller Breaking In, directed by Wachowski sisters protege James McTeigue (V for Vendetta). It wastes little time getting to the action, such as it is: No sooner have Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union) and her two children, teen daughter Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and younger son Glover (Seth Carr), arrived at the isolated mansion of Shaun's estranged father, Isaac (Damien Leake), than a quartet of thieving antagonists make themselves known. Isaac, who is murdered in a precredits sequence, has left a small fortune behind in a safe hidden somewhere on the heavily secured property, and the scowling Eddie (Billy Burke) and his cronies want to get their hands on the cash.
It's a simple game and (mostly) single location, all very much in keeping with screenwriter Ryan Engle’s work on two similarly to the point Jaume Collet-Serra thrillers, Non-Stop (2014) and The Commuter (2018). Shaun must rely on her particular set of motherly skills to survive the onslaught and keep her family safe. But she comes off less as a strong-willed person than a construct engineered from the DNA of other, more memorable movie survivalists such as Die Hard's John McClane (she spends much of the film perilously barefoot), Panic Room’s Meg Altman (she’s a devoted mom under siege by criminals) and, most goofily, Home Alone’s Kevin McCallister (she uses whatever is at hand, be it the stem of a broken wine glass or a toy drone with camera, to repel her bumbling enemies).
And, boy, do these guys bumble. At least Burke, who seems like he was born to model unkempt stubble, gives good glower. His three subordinates — tattooed psycho Duncan (Richard Cabral), nerve-wracked tweaker Sam (Levi Meaden) and former military muscle Peter (Mark Furze) — are the kind of one-note villains who exist solely to prove, time and again, their own idiocy and ineptitude. It's clear from their first appearance that none of these guys poses any credible threat to Shaun. They're just here to strut cockily (in Cabral's case to unintentionally hilarious effect, as his character's in-yo’-face! certifiability quickly loses its edge) before their long-delayed comeuppance by rock, knife or bullet. Per the film's cheeky tagline, “Payback is a mother!”
Union certainly dedicates herself to all the huffing, running, jumping and emoting, though her efforts never counter Breaking In’s aura of trashiness and disposability. And the PG-13 rating dictates that her rampage will be nowhere near the bloody purge demanded by a low-grade exploitation flick like this. All savage pleasures are elided or deferred, beyond one tension-goosing needle drop of The Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes for You." At least the 88-minute running time ensures viewers a quick escape and an easy forget.
Production companies: Breaking In Pictures, Will Packer Productions
Cast: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Ajiona Alexus, Levi Meaden, Seth Carr, Mark Furze, Jason George, Christa Miller, Damien Leake
Director: James McTeigue
Screenwriter: Ryan Engle
Producers: James Lopez, William Packer, Craig Perry, Sheila Taylor, Gabrielle Union
Executive producers: Jeff Morrone, Valerie Bleth Sharp, Jaime Primak Sullivan
Director of photography: Toby Oliver
Production designer: Cece Destefano
Editor: Joseph Jett Sally
Music: Johnny Klimek
Rated PG-13, 88 minutes