Movie Review: 'Breaking In'

Gabrielle Union Thriller Fails Its Star

Breaking In stars Gabrielle Union as Shaun Russell, a mother of two whose estranged father supposedly was killed in a hit and run accident. But we know what really happened. An opening scene finds the father on a run when he’s hit by a truck driven by Eddie (Billy Burke), an ex-con after the father’s hidden cash. The cash is hidden in the father’s vacation home, which places Shaun and Eddie on an unwitting collision course.

Shaun is headed to the vacation home to prepare the house for sale. She’s brought her two children, Jasmine (Aijona Alexus) and Glover (Seth Carr), along for what they hope will be a quiet weekend in the country. Unfortunately, Eddie and his goons, Peter (Mark Furze), Duncan (Richard Cabral), and Sam (Levi Meaden), are coming to the house this same weekend with the intent of breaking into a safe containing four million dollars.

The house itself is a character in Breaking In, though not much of a character. It’s built like a modern fortress with bulletproof everything and Ft. Knox level security with cameras and motion detectors and whatnot. Unfortunately, the home is poorly explored by the unimaginative and clumsy direction of James McTeigue. So poorly directed is the space of the home that we rarely have an idea where any character is located in relation to the other characters and thus drama intended to be cat and mouse style stuff rarely gains tension.

What happened to James McTeigue? McTeigue burst on to the scene in 2005 with the fiery comic adaptation V for Vendetta. That film was stylish, weird, risky, and strange. The film had personality to spare and well-captured the anarchic spirit of the source material. V for Vendetta was produced by The Matrix Wachowski tandem and carries some of the same artistic flourish of The Matrix sequels leading me to wonder how much influence they carried over McTeigue on V for Vendetta.

McTeigue’s post-V for Vendetta career seems to confirm my suspicion. Nothing McTeigue has done since V for Vendetta has approached the promise he showed in that film. Movies such as Ninja Assassin and The Raven are downright abysmal and buried McTeigue so deep that his 2015 movie, Survivor, starring Pierce Brosnan and Milla Jovovich didn’t receive a theatrical release.

How Breaking In earned a theatrical release is a bit of a mystery as well. Sloppy and clichéd to the hilt, Breaking In fails to capitalize on Gabrielle Union’s competent lead performance and Billy Burke’s oddly practical murderer performance. Both lead are trying to keep things interesting, seeming to color outside the lines of screenwriter Ryan Engle’s dull, by the numbers script but nothing they can do can salvage the silliness of Breaking In.

Engle is one of the hottest screenwriters of the moment for some reason. His scripts for The Commuter and Rampage each hit the big screen earlier this year with Breaking In providing his third screen credit of 2018, a mere 5 months into 2018. Those two scripts were also terrible which should have prepared me for Breaking In to be just as bad; I can tend to be overly optimistic about a fun premise and Breaking In had me fooled from its trailer.

Breaking In was released on Mother’s Day weekend as a cynical and quite cheesy marketing ploy. Union’s mama bear is supposed to be an example of motherly dedication, but Breaking In is far too nonsensical to be an example of much beyond the incompetence of its script and direction. The idea of a mom going all badass to protect her little ones would make a terrific premise for a revenge movie, but as a PG-13 action flick it plays really, really lame, despite the Sisyphean effort of Gabrielle Union’s lead performance. 

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Movie Review: 'Breaking In'
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