Directed By: James McTeigue
Starring: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Ajiona Alexus, Levi Meaden, Seth Carr
Rated: PG-13 for violence, menace, bloody images, sexual references, and brief strong language.
A mom breaking heads to save her kids isn’t a new story, and “Breaking In” isn’t a great film. It’s moderately entertaining, though, and solid as a popcorn movie watched while you escape the heat on a sweltering afternoon.
Gabrielle Union plays Shaun Russell, a seemingly-ordinary working mom to two kids, young teen Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and tween Glover (Seth Carr). When Shaun’s father is murdered, she and the kids head up to his remote home to clean it out and get it ready to sell. They discover the old man turned the house into a fortress, complete with retractable bullet-proof shields for the windows, motion-detector lights, cameras in every room, and so on.
Unfortunately, a quartet of thieves also show up to clean out the house that same day – specifically, the $4 million stashed in a hidden safe somewhere in the building. Shaun winds up outside the house while two of the thieves are inside holding Jasmine and Glover hostage to ensure her good behavior. But the thieves are having trouble finding the safe, and Shaun soon has no trouble deciding to do whatever it takes to save her kids.
“Breaking In” is a workmanlike thriller, mixing standard hide and seek trickery with hand-to-hand skirmishes. Are the thrills and chills new and startling? No. This is the movie equivalent of a fondly-remembered homecooked meal from your childhood. It’s not going to bring you any surprises, but if you like it, that’s part of the appeal.
The characters aren’t well written, and only Union manages to bring some depth to her role. Watching her take Shaun from harried mom to determined buttkicker is fun. The kids aren’t just helpless plot devices, either, which is always nice. Jasmine is smart enough to try to save herself and her brother. Glover is scared stiff, but comes through in a pinch.
Sadly, the villains are cardboard cutouts. Thrillers depend on their villain being either genuinely scary, or campy and fun, and these guys are neither, even with the cheesy one-liners the script gives them. We get the leader (Billy Burke), the psycho (Richard Cabral), the nice one (Levi Meaden), and the expendable one (Mark Furze). They all play their parts, but there’s no chemistry. A lot of their scenes feel like an early rehearsal that somehow got on film, just with better lighting and effects.
Is this a great film? No. But if you’re looking for a couple of hours in an air-conditioned theater and enjoy by-the-numbers, mom-owns-the-baddies-and-saves-her-kids thrillers, you’re in luck. Folks hoping for innovation, lack of cliches, or character depth (let alone character development) should look elsewhere.
As a heads-up for folks who might want/need it: there’s an attempted rape near the end of the film. This is a PG-13 movie, so it’s not graphic or long, but it’s still there. There’s also a prison rape joke.