While there are plenty of original movie ideas in Hollywood these days, it’s understandable that there are some tried and true formulas out there that will be used time and time again because if handled properly, they’re often surefire entertainment. The problem is when they’re not done well they tend to suffer from simply checking off every box on the list of genre cliché requirements and calling it a day. The latter is where the not so thrilling thriller Breaking In finds itself.
The movie stars Gabrielle Union as Shaun Russell, a mother of two who is taking her kids to the remotely-located house she grew up in after her father passed away. Well, not so much passed away as he was viciously run down by a SUV in broad daylight while jogging, followed up by the driver getting out of the SUV and stomping on his head until he died. Ah, that’s just semantics. So, Shaun is headed back to the place she ran away from when she was young because her father was an evil guy (that’s all we get, so let’s just go with it) so she can settle his estate and move on.
Unbeknownst to her, there are four criminals already inside the house looking for a safe that her father hid $4 million dollars in after he liquidated his assets after coming under investigation by the government. So, there are about 10 very long minutes where Shaun, her daughter Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus), and her son Glover (Seth Carr) are all exploring this massive house, and it feels like they’re all on edge. The movie is attempting to give off a vibe that something isn’t right, but it’s so awkwardly done that it just drags on.
Eventually Glover and Shaun discover a security room that showcases the high-tech security that her father had added over the years. Cameras covering every square inch of the house, motion sensor flood lights all around the outside of the house, unbreakable glass, the works. And it can all be controlled via a single remote. It was deactivated when they arrived, but Glover has now turned it back on.
This all may sound impressive, but it turns out to be anything but. Shaun goes outside to order a pizza, that’s when the criminals make their move, and while Shaun escapes her attacker outside, she quickly sees that her kids have been tied up inside the house and now she must break in to get them back. Get it? The title of the movie is about her breaking in to the house that the criminals were already breaking into? Ah, so much breaking in!
There are just so many issues with the movie though that it can’t even really be enjoyed on the basic level of just wanting to see a mom kick the asses of some bad guys to get her kids back because Ryan Engle’s script doesn’t even handle that properly. I mean, there’s a reason people still quote Liam Neeson’s “I will find you and I will kill you,” line from Taken and that’s because it’s badass! There’s nothing like that here and what we do get is so cliché-ridden that it hurts the brain.
Take the bad guys for example: Their leader, Eddie (Billy Burke), was given information about this score by the cowardly pushover on the team, Sam (Levi Meaden.) So he brings on a former military guy who’s also a hacker named Peter (Mark Furze) to create some sort of workaround to get them into the safe. Lastly, there’s the resident psycho, Duncan (Richard Cabral) who really has no place on the team but to be the loose cannon that causes problems. So leader, pushover, hacker and psycho…check, check, check and check.
And who brings on a psychopath for a simple robbery? Seriously? If you need muscle in case something goes wrong, why not just get a big, strong dude who can watch the door while everyone does their job? Duncan literally has no place on this crew other than to do all the cliché things that the psychopath character always does in these movies to the point of ridiculousness.
While we’re at it, why not just kidnap Shaun’s father at the start of the movie instead of brutally killing him in the middle of the road? From what I gathered this was a summer home of his, with his main residence being in the city. So why not just kidnap him, take him to this place in the middle of nowhere, force him to open the safe and be done with it? And even if you are going to kill him at the start for whatever reason, why weren’t they already out of the house with the money by the time Shaun got there? You’re telling me that the authorities found her father, contacted Shaun, who then likely had a funeral of some sort for him, then went on to pack luggage and groceries before driving out to get his estate in order and these criminals were still at the house looking for the safe?
Hard to believe, especially when they only have 90-minutes to find it after they turn off the security system (or else the security company will call the police to go check it out. You know, the usual 90-minute wait time of all super high-tech security companies.) Plus, with all this security, the only way that the police can be contacted is if this time limit runs out because Shaun gets her hands on the remote one or two times and gets into the security room with all the computers as well, and at no point did she ever just hit a button that would call the police. It controls everything down to the music being played throughout the house, yet there’s no emergency button. Got it.
There are a few cool moments where Union puts on her game face and it seems like things could take a turn for the better, but then the film just follows it up with more clichés. When they’re first pulling into this large estate, Glover asks if her mom had horses when she was growing up because he sees stables on the property. She says yes, but that her father sold them after she left and that’s the last we ever hear of it. Why mention that at all? To further explain that they didn’t get along? Don’t show the stables unless at some point Shaun is going to lead a bad guy out to the stables and get the upper hand.
And continuing on that note, this is the childhood home that Shaun grew up in so you’d think that since she has to break in to it to get her kids back that she’d know all the little secrets the house has to offer to get the upper hand. She can get in there, set traps, sneak around…I mean, it’s cliché too, but at least that’s something you’d expect to see since these bad guys are new to the area and she should know it like the back of her hand. But no, that’s not the case. Instead, multiple times Shaun actually gets cornered by these guys who seem to know the layout of the place better than she does. Again, it’s just ridiculous.
There’s more I could tear into – like the fact that the real estate agent says she’s coming up to see Shaun that night, at a house in the middle of nowhere, so they can prepare to sell the house the following week – but I won’t. I mean, I guess that’s what all good realtors would do, right? Why wait until the following day and just go up before lunch so you could be back in the city before the end of the day? Makes much more sense to drive up in the dark for non-urgent business matters. No way that could possibly be done just so there’s some non-family fodder for the movie to work with.
Okay, I digressed again, so I’ll just say this: if you’re looking for a movie to watch that won’t surprise you in the least and you can predict at every mind-numbing turn, then Breaking In is a movie that shouldn’t be missed.
The Blu-ray transfer looks great, with crisp, clean images throughout and no muddy blacks to deal with even though the majority of the film takes place at night. Everything is clear and easy on the eyes in this department. The sound does its job, with the score coming through nicely, and the dialogue being clear as well. This isn’t a movie that needs to go above and beyond in either department, but both look and sound just fine.
Audio Commentary – Director James McTeigue and scriptwriter Ryan Engle talk about the movie, and try to explain why the film works and why they did what they did over the course of the movie.
Alternate Opening: The Gas Station – This is a two-minute clip of Shaun basically washing her face at a gas station to hide that she was crying over her father’s death. She then gets into the car with her kids and the trio continue their trip to the house. It has commentary by McTeigue and Engle as well, but isn’t worth the time to watch or listen to.
Deleted/Extended Scenes – Almost fifteen minutes worth of deleted and extended scenes to watch with commentary by the same pair as above.
One Bad Mother… — This is a featurette that’s just over four minutes long and sees Union and the crew talk about Shaun going up against four men in the house, why the story is interesting and needed to be told (it’s not and it didn’t) and what intrigued them about the project.
A Filmmaker’s Eye: James McTeigue – This five minute featurette looks at the movie and what McTeigue brought to it by being behind the camera.
A Lesson in Kicking Ass – This four minute featurette looks at the film’s stunts and action scenarios and how the characters grow throughout the film.
A Hero Evolved – This featurette comes in at just under three minutes in length and much like the above piece about McTeigue, this one focuses on what Union brings to the movie in the leading role.
Universal Pictures Presents Breaking In. Directed by: James McTeigue. Written by: Ryan Engle. Starring: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Ajiona Alexus, Seth Carr, Levi Meaden, Mark Furze. Running time: Theatrical Release: 88 Minutes / Unrated Director’s Cut: 89 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Aug. 7, 2018.
Tags: Breaking In, Gabrielle Union