BREAKING IN

As much as I love a film that has an engrossing story and deep characterization, I love silly schlock just as much. I have no biases when it comes to film. Drama, horror, comedy, science fiction, porn, action, thriller, you name it. A good film is a good film, no matter what genre it falls under. Yes, even the schlocky films can be high quality. You’re not going to get the same level of depth that others films may offer, but sometimes some dumb entertainment is perfectly fine, you know? Schlock can be well incredibly entertaining and well handled, but trash is usually considered trash for a reason. 

Breaking In follows Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union) who heads to her recently deceased father’s mansion with her kids in order to settle his estate. When they arrive, she realizes his mansion is more a of a fortress, with retractable walls that cover the windows and surveillance cameras in every room. Since her father was a wealthy man in a schlocky movie, that obviously means he has a hidden safe with a lot of cash somewhere in the house. This inspires thief Eddie (Billy Burke) and his team of crooks to break into the house and steal the goods. Unfortunately for Shaun, she’s trapped on the outside while Eddie holds her kids hostage on the inside. Looks like the only way out of this situation is in.

Breaking In has a very thin premise, literally just about a mom trying to fight her way inside a house to save her kids. That’s it. When you’re dealing with just one location, especially when that location is a gigantic estate, the director needs to ensure the audience understands the geography of the movie. For example, in Don’t Breathe, we’re treated to a long tracking shot showing the entire layout of the house, that way we know where our characters are at in relation to each other at all times. Director James McTiegue never gives us such luxury, instead deciding to make us confused during the entire runtime. The lack of planning is clear as evidenced by the terrible direction and editing. I never got a sense of how big this house was supposed to be, nor how it was designed. It was just a bunch of characters teleporting around some vaguely interconnected sets. There’s not really anything fun done with this “fortified house” premise anyway. 

As dumb as the film was, I appreciate that it actually didn’t get too dumb. A lot of these types of movies where someone turns into an unlikely action star usually involves the protagonist having some sort of military training, or something like that in their past. Here, Shaun is just a desperate mother trying to do whatever she possibly can to save her children (which the film will reiterate to you ever 10 minutes). Gabrielle Union isn’t a very convincing action star, but she’s not supposed to be here. It was nice having a protagonist that wasn’t completely competent and took the bad guys down with ease. Aside from her being a desperate mother, there’s absolutely nothing to her character, though. Union does a capable job, but she’s not really given anything to work with, as the film takes no time to develop any characters. It just sets up this plot and drops them right in. Hardly any backstory, or any development at all. Just your most basic characters traits.

I mean, the cliché gang is all here. We have four criminals, so of course we have the cool headed and rational mastermind, the techy one with a military background, the crazy psychopath, and the young, empathetic one who doesn’t want anybody to get hurt. Shaun has a teenage daughter and adolescent son, so obviously the daughter’s thing is texting a boy on her phone, while her son is the tech wiz and has dialogue that seems way beyond his vocabulary. It’s as groanworthy as it gets and yes, all of those performances, save for Ajiona Alexis as Shaun’s daughter, totally miss the mark. Where’s the satisfaction when the protagonist succeeds if the antagonist is so bland and forgettable? It feels like the screenplay never made it past the first draft, considering how characters will randomly show up just to increase the body count and attempt to up the stakes. The excitement of watching a mother get back at her aggressors and rescue her children is gone when I don’t care about anything. There are some glimpses of originality here and there, but they’re always quickly undone by the clichés. Even though the screenplay is trash, this could have been a fun time, but the filmmakers just take it way too seriously and play it too safe. 

During the last hour or so of Breaking In, I was having flashbacks to David Fincher’s Panic Room, a film with a very similar premise but far better in really every single way. Panic Room was just as cheesy as this, but it worked not just because of the great performances and direction, but because it was also very entertaining. It had this constant sense of escalation and there were many twists throughout that kept the premise fresh. Once Breaking In exhausts the novelty of its premise after the first act, there’s nothing of interest to be found. Just a confusing, dull, and boring mess. One of the longest 88 minutes I’ve spent in a theater recently. 

3/10

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