I have very little to say about Breaking In. My main takeaway is that it is the definition of average. A conventional home invasion movie that takes itself more seriously than a home invasion movie of this sort ought, there is little to chew on here.
The story is thin enough that the runtime can be graciously under 90 minutes, but it is also thin enough to make 90 minutes feel too long. Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union) takes her two children to a hideaway estate in upstate Wisconsin. It is the high-security home of her deceased father, who had some vague ties to criminal embezzling. Her hope is to quickly clean up the home so that it can be put on the market. What gets in her way, however, are four men who quickly descend upon the house in search of the dead man’s cash.
The men are essentially nameless villains, in that they certainly have names in the script but you’d be hard-pressed to remember any of them. Except Peter, who everyone keeps badgering on about. They are bland antagonists who yap on about what they are going to do until the script reaches a marketable length, when they are finally allowed to start taking action.
The core of the conflict revolves around a mother trying to protect her children. Gabrielle Union, armed with nothing but her mom jeans and determination, must infiltrate the house and extract her children, who are being held hostage as collateral in case the robbery doesn’t go as planned.
Certainly a premise that sounds good in a pitch meeting. But Shaun, aside from being a mother, is nothing. She doesn’t exist outside the boundaries of her screentime. It is difficult to see her as a sympathetic protagonist, because the one thing that the script gives her in the way of characterization is summed up by three letters: mom.
What is her relationship with her father, who is the reason for all of this hubbub? What is her relationship with her kids? Her husband? (Who is almost entirely absent from the film). What’s her job? What activities does she do with her family? What are her hobbies?
Nothing. We get not even the bare minimum. All she is is a mama bear who lashes out when some people get in between her and her cubs. That’s not a character. That’s a motivation.
The narrative of this film exists in isolation. We never see any character outside of the plot of land that the house resides on. No one talks about anything other than the house and, later, the invasion that takes place inside of it. If anything, the house is the most developed character in the film.
None of this minutia would matter if director James McTeigue and screenwriter Ryan Engle had decided to make a good old fashioned B-movie action flick. If that were the case, characters wouldn’t matter as much. Story wouldn’t matter as much. The thrilling spectacle would be the most important thing.
Then again, Breaking In doesn’t have that either. Sure, it is a no frills thriller that isn’t ashamed of its lack of depth. But it is also average, with its lackluster PG-13 exploits and tedious circling back onto the same piece of conflict. It’s so brutally average that its very middling existence makes it paradoxically sub-par, as it is destined to be instantly forgotten.
Breaking In: C-
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)