Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller.
Starring: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Ajiona Alexus, Levi Meaden, Seth Carr, Mark Furze, Jason George, Christa Miller, Damien Leake.
Year Of Release: 2018
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Runtime: 88 Minutes
Director: James McTeigue
Writer(s): Ryan Engle
Synopsis: “A woman fights to protect her family during a home invasion.” IMDB
The home invasion sub-genre seems to have had its day, and James McTeigue’s Breaking In does nothing to quell that belief. A cheap release for Universal, the Gabrielle Union-led thriller provides the genre with more of the same and that’s not enough to make this an experience worth breaking out the cinema savings for.
Simply put, Breaking In concerns itself with Shaun Russell (Union), who must break her two children out when they are taken hostage by four criminals searching for her late father’s fortune in his home. Despite slightly tweaking the typical home invasion set-up, Breaking In has very little to satisfy audiences with by playing so closely to the book. It employs genre conventions and formulas like they are going out of fashion; this one lazily lets the rules set by prior releases do most of the heavy lifting. At times you can really feel it ticking items off the convention checklist.
While there’s nothing especially awful about Breaking In, and it’s rather watchable at times, it is almost entirely devoid of character and personality. Ryan Engle’s screenplay does little of its own accord, as disposable as it is unmemorable. Sure, it’ll make a quick buck based on how cheap it was to produce, but it will be hard-pressed to inspire anyone who comes to see it. It’s destined for an unremarkable post-theatrical life: playing throughout the night on some film channel you find yourself skimming over when you can’t sleep. It does nothing for a genre past its prime, lacking a creativity that may have helped it stand out in its own regard. No one film should be given the task of recharging an entire genre, but Breaking In doesn’t bother to try. It fails to provide that much-needed shot of adrenaline.
Poorly structured to the point of incompetence, Breaking In uses more almost-endings than I thought possible; just as you see it wrapping up, it fumbles and tries to pull the carpet out from under your feet, landing pretty clumsily almost all of the time. It’s exhausting, in all honesty, watching it head for its natural conclusion before the filmmakers panic and prolong the mediocrity. Matched with little in the way of suspense – all of which derives from techniques and films we’ve seen before – Breaking In is somewhat of a slog, even at just 88 minutes. A film should never feel longer than it is, yet here we are.
There’s no denying that Union’s performance is impressive; given the right material, she could be a truly compelling leading lady. She never once lets on that she knows the script is weak and that is commendable — what a pro. Union certainly tries her best to elevate such aggressively mediocre material but it’s never deserving of her attempt or talent. It’s like she’s fighting a losing battle from the off. She holds the entire thing on her shoulders, and it’s admirable; that it doesn’t completely collapse is an utter miracle and down almost wholly to her commitment. Credit where it’s due mind: Ajiona Alexus is pretty decent in a supporting capacity.
Breaking In’s emphasis on motherhood (as well as its Mother’s Day weekend release date in the United States) is a crafty way of trying to use basic thematic content to substitute actual character development, of which there is little here. There are far smarter ways of showing the strength of a mother beside this pedestrian, second-rate picture; Shaun is thinly-sketched and early hints of a more complex backstory are forgotten as soon as the film descends into cheap thrills and overly-familiar tropes. McTeigue fails to enliven in it anyway; neither violent or experimental enough to justify itself, as a director, he never gets to let loose or impress.
In Conclusion: Breaking In
A disappointingly dull attempt at a genre petering out in its most primal form (Darren Aronofsky’s mother! not included), Breaking In finds itself locked in an endless onslaught of tropes and cliches it never escapes. Despite a committed performance from Gabrielle Union, the lack of life means that there is little to justify its existence outside the purely financial realm. It’s as uninspired as it is forgettable. While there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half of your life – and you may find the most basic, disposable level of enjoyment in it – general audiences, mothers across the world and Union deserve far better.