Breaking In

Gabrielle Union plays a mother who ain’t to be messed with.

Watch the trailer for Breaking In and you should know what to expect: A lean, no-frills thriller that will either succeed or fail solely on how successfully it in can fit you into the shoes of its heroine. Comparisons with David Fincher’s Panic Room have been made due to the home invasion style plot but any notions of directly comparing the two films beyond the concept are quickly dispelled.

While there’s no doubting Gabrielle Union’s effort and commitment to the role, everything else around her is as generic as the title. Union plays Shaun Russell, the daughter of a crooked business man who is brutally dispatched within the first few minutes of the film. Who by and the reasons why are never explained. It’s an odd choice by director James McTeigue as it offers precious little to the story. So much for breaking us in gently.

She heads out to her deceased father’s remote Wisconsin vacation home with her two kids, teenager Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and younger son Glover (Seth Carr), to put things in order before putting it on the market to be sold. Once inside they discover the property is protected by a high-tech security system that would put most military bases to shame.

What Shaun doesn’t count on is Billy Burke’s Eddie and his rag-tag crew popping up in the house in search of $4m supposedly stashed away in a hidden safe. She manages to get herself trapped outside just as the security system goes on lockdown leaving the kids held hostage with the gang. But this mum ain’t to be underestimated (so we keep being told) and she sets about trying to save her kids.

Riffing off Panic Room to reverse the position of the main characters seemed like a smart idea. The snappy title sells it further and the stage is set to make the most of the one-location setting. Except, McTeigue spends most of the time inside the house, never giving a clear idea of the geography of the interior or Shaun’s activities outside, which seem to mostly consist of tip-toeing through the dark smashing lights.

Toby Oliver’s uninspiring photography seems completely disinterested in using the dozens of security cameras in the home to play with visuals and shoots every scene with bored detachment. It’s a mood that seems to infect Billy Burke who aims for menacing cool and ends up looks like he’s on the end of a long distance call. The rest of the cast is anonymous, although Richard Cabral’s throat slitting sicko is the stuff of acting nightmares.

There is no expectation for Breaking In to tear up the rule book but surely a little suspense isn’t too much to ask for. Even the 88 minute runtime overstays its welcome thanks to predictable twists and turns that appear never ending. Union seems to be the only one interested in earning her cheque while everyone else in front and behind the camera treats it as a chance to add another line to their CV. Come the end there’s a good chance you’ll be hurrying for the exits looking to break out as quickly as you can.

Steven Sheehan

Updated: May 11, 2018

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