Updated: Feb 6, 2020
Breaking In is a home invasion thriller that tries to add a twist to the genre by having its heroine turn the tables on the villains. They are in the house with her children and she is the one trying to find a way in to save them. It is not a bad premise, but that may be the only thing about the movie that is not bad. The writing, acting, directing, cinematography and editing are all bad. It is hard to root for a protagonist who mainly succeeds because their enemies are giant idiots.
It stars Gabrielle Union as a married mother of two who takes her teenage daughter and young son to prepare her recently deceased father’s home to be sold. Then, while she is outside on the phone, four armed criminals show up and securely lock themselves inside, holding her kids hostage until they find what they are looking for. Those seem like pretty big odds for her to overcome, but she is a mother and they are doofuses so I guess the odds are really stacked in the other direction.
Breaking In goes out of its way to repeat numerous times that a desperate mother is capable of doing anything to save her children. Even the bad guys contemplate this concept more than once. The filmmakers must consider this shorthand. If they keep saying she can do anything because she is a mom, then they can avoid having to give her any other traits. Besides being estranged from her dad and loving her kids, we learn absolutely nothing about Union’s character. She can be capable of anything since it is never made clear who she truly is.
Meanwhile, the villains seem completely unprepared to carry out their plan. Their leader (Billy Burke) does a whole lot of talking, but it takes them forever to actually do something besides argue among themselves. Additionally, the movie does Burke no favors by making him and his gang appear spectacularly incompetent. Why oh why, if you are trying to keep somebody out of the house, with little concern that they can hurt you from there, would you wander outside looking for them and leave the door open?
I can suspend my disbelief that an overmatched hero can prevail against more skilled enemies. That comes with the territory in most action thrillers. Though it is usually because they are very smart or have an advantage the bad guys are unaware of. Here, she does not seem to develop a strategy beyond “wait for them to do something dumb.”
The film critic Roger Ebert used to say “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” Breaking In exists to prove his point. Its running time is only 85 minutes (without the end credits), but it feels about seventeen hours longer. I suppose the purpose of this movie is to celebrate a mother’s love and the lengths she will go to for her children. That is why it has been released on Mother’s Day weekend. However, if you really love your mother, you will not subject her to this film on Mother’s Day or any other day.
¾ out of 5
Gabrielle Union as Shaun Russell
Billy Burke as Eddie
Richard Cabral as Duncan
Levi Meaden as Sam
Mark Furze as Peter
Ajiona Alexus as Jasmine Russell
Seth Carr as Glover Russell
Directed by James McTeigue
Written by Ryan Engle