MPAA Rating: PG-13/Genre: Thriller/ Stars: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Ajiona Alexus, Levi Meaden, Seth Carr, Mark Furze, Jason George, Christa Miller/ Runtime: 88 minutes
I feel it must be said that if there ever was a narrative in the world of movie making that was seemingly as old as the industry itself I definitely think the narrative concept of a break-in would definitely fit that requirement. By break-in I of course mean the narrative that consists a seemingly innocent person or family finding themselves engaged in a desperate fight for survival against a roving gang of either thieves, murderers, or both who have chosen to target them for…..reasons. The reason I bring this up is because the movie I am reviewing for you today is the latest film to use this classic narrative with the unique distinction of having a woman of color as the protagonist of the story. Yet while Gabrielle Union does manage to provide a strong and tenacious protagonist for audiences to follow and root for, she sadly is let down by the rest of the film because despite the film attempting to change things up for the better, it sadly doesn’t bring anything to the table that audiences haven’t seen in the first 99 attempts with this very same material.
The plot is as follows: Breaking In tells us the story of a woman named Shaun Russell who when the film opens finds herself en route to her recently deceased father’s luxurious house in order to sort his affairs out to the best of her ability. Yet while Shaun, and her son and daughter are heading there with the ultimate goal in mind of also getting the estate ready to be put back on the market and move on with their lives, it isn’t long before a gang of accomplished thieves horrifically make themselves known and reveal that they have other ideas in mind. This is because it seems that dear ol’ Padre before his untimely demise decided to hide away quite the pile of proverbial cold hard cash in the house thus the reason that Shaun and her family are now apparently being targeted. Of course in addition to that, Dad also chose to install in his estate quite the extensive security system that comes with everything from shatterproof windows to super bright lights and super loud sound effects all meant to keep anyone inside safe from any unwelcome guests from trying to get in. Thus with the battleground in place it’s up to Shaun to keep her family safe, and make it clear to this pack of thugs that they may have just picked the wrong house….
Now this is a film which goes exactly as you being an audience member thinks that a film of this ilk is going to play out. By that I mean this is a film which manages to gift the heroine with an odyssey to go on, and through which she manages to become a more toughened and handy warrior while dealing with stakes that continue to get higher and higher. Indeed make no mistake: while you will be able to see the various curve-balls and wrinkles that this movie throws your way from a mile away, they do, to this film’s credit, do manage to help this film’s runtime of less than an hour and a half chugging along at just the right speed and enjoying that big tub of popcorn by your side enough that you won’t find yourself either desperately checking your phone to see how much longer or begin to lose focus on what is unfolding on screen in front of you….even if the action beats in this film would’ve leaps and bounds benefited more in terms of effectiveness and potency if this film was rated R instead of PG-13.
Yet I feel that without a doubt one of the most significant hurdles that this film has immense difficulty in overcoming is that it really doesn’t have anything it’s trying to say to its audience and there really is no opportunities for the main character or anyone in the film for that matter to grow in any significant way. Indeed from beginning to end the main character has caring bonds with both her kids and her husband and this is never challenged in any significant ways during the duration of this cinematic outing. Also we are given a heroine that is literally not in any kind of combat with any internal struggles of any kind thus really cheapening the stakes in this “thrill ride” despite the incident in question being one of life and death. Finally while there are actions taken by pretty much all of the principals at some point or another the actions undertaken don’t really give us the opportunity to learn anything new about who these people are and it just feels like the main heroine is just this pure and flawless individual all in all…..of course that can also be attributed to how the wonderful sense of both intensity and energy that Gabrielle Union manages to bring to the role.
Indeed make no mistake: Gabrielle Union is an actress who truly has had quite the extensive and wonderful career in the entertainment industry. Suffice it to say then that this talented actress is definitely given the chance to show just what she is truly capable of in the lead role to this film. Indeed, as portrayed by Union, the main character may go back and forth between the extremes of the infamous motherly protective instinct as well as fear more than once as the movie goes on. Yet once that proverbial first blood is finally drawn out, we get to watch as Miss Union is then able to engage in a wonderful metamorphosis and become a true fighter for herself and her children in every sense of the word. Yet despite the level of commitment on display here by Union, it is absolutely saddening to see that other than what I just told you she really isn’t gifted a whole lot more to accomplish from a character perspective. Indeed Gabrielle Union may be able to give a multi-layer and quite engaging performance with the right material, but this character is most definitely not that material in a lot of ways.
Now although there are quite a few faces in this film’s supporting cast that have been around the block they sadly aren’t really given an equal amount of time to really show off their acting potential. Thus even though we get dependable work from such character actors as Billy Burke in the head antagonist role, Levi Meaden and Richard Cabral as his henchmen, as well as Christa Miller and Jason George they are honestly not given the chance to show their skill and talent as much as they rightfully should in this.
It should also be said that another key element that really brings this film down is in the writing that is the spine of the film itself. A fact that becomes strange to consider when you realize that the writer also wrote the scripts for the films Rampage and Non-Stop although to be fair those films had significantly more toys that they could play with in those sandboxes in order to make the films work to their fullest realized potential. Instead this film manages to possess an idea that is significantly tinier in nature thus this may also go a long way towards understanding why a lot of things in this film are as off-kilter as they are. Perhaps the best, and most frustrating, example of this that I can think of is the fact that the vast majority of this film’s plot is only able to propel itself forward thanks to the security system that is installed in the house 90% of the film takes place, and which both the main heroine and the squad of antagonists both seem to have a high degree of familiarity in utilizing. Thus we as an audience are dealing with a stereotypical back-and-forth that oddly finds itself extremely dependent both on which group has the capability to utilize this security system as well as what kind of goings-on that they are instigating with said power. Yet although our main heroine manages to fairly quickly showcase her capableness as well as her resourcefulness, the squad of antagonists continuously underestimate her, divide up, and seemingly endlessly bicker about just how to handle their current predicament thus leading to a lot of absolute confusion: both among the group of captors as well as the audience when they attempt to figure out why the captors continue to make all the stupid and idiotic decisions they choose to make even after realizing just how capable their quarry truly is. Indeed if I were you I honestly wouldn’t think about it too hard because sadly this movie doesn’t come with a free bottle of Tylenol to help calm the inevitable headache you would wind up giving yourself as a result of such a choice on your part.
I feel it should also be said that also within this film there are a few odd instances of crassness that also not only come completely out of left field, but that also go completely nowhere. One of the more….icky examples involves the fact that while the main heroine’s daughter is attempting to combat the bad guys, there are some unusual and ickily hazy mentions of physical attack of a….certain nature yet these are not once ever brought up by any of the other characters in this film for seemingly no other reason than the fact that this is a film which is desperately trying to keep its PG-13 rating. In addition to that, we are also treated to a wisecrack about, I shit you not here, about homosexuality whilst in prison that is said at 2 different moments in the movie, and again I say: I get that you really are wanting to keep that PG-13 rating, but were these really necessary? I mean what exactly do these moments serve in the grand scheme of this film’s 88-minute runtime? Truthfully I think the answer is absolutely nothing and whoever wrote these moments into the film really needs to think about how those jokes might be received especially in the world around us nowadays.
Now due to the fact that our main heroine is given no real room to grow as a character, she’s also, in quite the sexist way, simply referred to as a woman or a mom and that is not only why she is seen as weak to our squad of antagonists, but also, by her own admission, why the world around her has been severely underestimating her and her capabilities for a long time. Yet in all fairness this is a character who, as stated previously, really doesn’t beat the odds and overcome any significant personal demons or obstacles in order to win the day against the squad of antagonists. Rather she’s just plain and simply able to show them how wrong they are not only because she is a tough woman, but also because she’s a mom. Indeed while, to be fair, this was most definitely a terrific marketing hook to get people to go see this around the time of the film’s theatrical release on Mother’s Day a couple of years back, I still feel that, at the very least on screen, the main character definitely deserved a whole lot more characterization than what we were ultimately given.
All in all despite the fact that Gabrielle Union manages to contribute no more and no less than 110% in what can easily be seen as a committed and absolutely fierce role here, it’s unfortunately barely enough in order to help salvage this film’s spectacular slim amount of vision as well as just how droppingly lazy this film’s story really truly is upon closer examination. Indeed suffice it to say then that if what you are looking for is either a great way to kill a little under an hour and a half or you just want a movie to watch with your significant other during a date night at your place and you have no other options then sure give this film a try. However if you are wanting a movie that is either riveting or a true twist on genre conventions then you might want to look elsewhere. To paraphrase a certain famous movie phrase: this is not the movie you are looking for. On a scale of 1-5 I give Breaking In a 2.5 out of 5.