Breaking In featured

Film Review: ‘Breaking In’ is a Flawed but Fun Take on the Home Invasion Genre

May 11, 2018Ferdosa Abdi

Breaking In is not a groundbreaking film, but it is certainly a refreshing take on the age-old intruder trope. The movie follows Shaun (Gabrielle Union), a mother of two who goes on a normal trip to her father's home to settle his estate after his untimely death. She and her two children (Ajiona Alexus and Seth Carr) have no clue that they are about to step into a burglary in-progress, and Shaun will have to fight to get in — not out — of the house.

Unfortunately for Shaun, the house is perfectly designed for your average paranoid individual. Designed to keep people safely locked inside, and to keep others out. However, what the intruders fail to realize is that the will and determination of a mother will make even supermax prisons look like children's playgrounds. Shaun is clearly a smart and capable woman, but as Billy Burke's character says, she is also a very impressive woman.

The villains, on the other hand, are not entirely impressive and rely heavily on archetypes you would expect from an intruder thriller. There is the laser-focused leader (Burke), the insane lackey (Richard Cabral) who enjoys inflicting pain, and the young'n (Levi Meaden) who probably doesn't want to be there in the first place. The actors all do their jobs well, but like Union, the script doesn't give them much to work with. A film like this needs the situation to escalate, and with villains who don't stand out, the stakes are never raised and the situation is left to stagnate. Both parties are on the defensive, when what this movie needs are villains who are on the offensive.

Screenwriter Ryan Engle's script also never delves further into who Shaun's father was or what he did for a living that warrants the state-of-the-art home security measures. The mystery of it adds a layer of excitement to the movie, as it implies that Shaun knows a thing or two about being in dangerous situations. The plot moves at a brisk pace because it doesn't take long for Shaun and her children to realize they are not alone in the house. Director James McTeigue's focus is on creating a tense environment, but he doesn't push further or harder. He finds a comfortable spot teasing the cat-and-mouse game between Shaun and the intruders.

Gabrielle Union is most definitely a movie star. The script and action could have given her more to work with, but she is giving her best in this performance. There is never a moment where you don't believe she is capable of taking on armed intruders. The only problem with this film is that the villains themselves are quite vanilla. Although dangerous and serious about their mission, they remain idle for long stretches. They're not the most active villains, which doesn't give Union's Shaun a ton to do except run and hide.

Despite the lack of action, however, Breaking In is very entertaining. This is a sharp and to-the-point story about one woman's mission to save her family. Even with its flaws, this is a fun and engaging moviegoing experience, and you won't be able to help yourself from cheering on Shaun as she does what she has to do to save her kids. This movie isn't the obvious choice for Mother's Day weekend, but it is definitely one that warrants attention.

Breaking In releases May 11th, 2018 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for violence, menace, bloody images, sexual references, and brief strong language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 28 min.

You May Also Like