Breaking In (Movie Review)

Breaking In (Movie Review)
4 10

PLOT: A mother of two (Gabrielle Union) must protect her children when a quartet of home-invading looters breaks in to her late father’s renovated mansion.

REVIEW: In a far cry from beginning his directorial career with a modicum of straight-faced competence, Aussie filmmaker James McTeigue (V FOR VENDETTA) continues to devolve into the realm of the farcically absurd with his new high-concept outing BREAKING IN, a listless thriller of such laughable insipience that one cannot tell if McTeigue is in on the joke or the unwitting butt of it. Either way, the result is the same, as BREAKING IN can neither stack up against the pantheon of home-invasion thrillers, nor does it ascend to such histrionic heights that would allow it to play as a kind of so-bad-it’s-good comedic parody. The movie waffles in somewhere in the middle, plodding along every high and low beat of a ticking clock formula, before ultimately ending in a patently anodyne manner. If there is any reason at all to endure BREAKING IN, it’s due to the inherent lovability of its star Gabrielle Union and the physically taxing turn she’s gamely given to the film. For everything else, BREAKING IN will likely have you BUSTING OUT in short order!

Shaun Russell (Union) is a resilient single mother from Chicago who, in the wake of her father’s accidental death in a car crash, brings her two children up to Wisconsin to settle his estate. Along with the strong-willed teenaged Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and her precocious little brother Glover (Seth Carr), Shaun is somewhat startled to realize that her father turned her childhood home into a high-tech, super-surveyed, overly-secured sanctuary. In almost a microcosm of the movie itself, the place is pretty but impersonal. The entranceway is gated, every room under heavy camera surveillance, the perimeter equipped with motion sensors, the windows adorned with shielded pleats, etc. The place is an impenetrable fortress, or so it would seem. Of course, that turns out to be a total fallacy when a foursome of dimwitted burglars - out to crack the old man’s safe - busts into the lavish abode without incident, holds Jasmine and Glover hostage inside the house, and forces Shaun outside without means of reentry.

Admittedly, this is quite an attractive lure, having the heroine be the one who must break and enter into her own house; with the assailants the ones granted easy access. Unfortunately, this promising setup inevitably fizzles into lunacy pretty fast, as every one of the four criminals – Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Levi Meaden, Mark Furze - is utterly outmatched by Shaun every step of the way. At every turn, the cons invite their own misfortune, never granting Shaun with an equally resilient foe to credibly go toe to toe with. Worse, they spend an inordinate amount of time quarreling with each other and falling into PANIC ROOM/HOME ALONE-style pit an pratfalls we can’t help chortle at with mild amusement. Mild is the key adjective here, as the entire film plays right down the line, neither soaring towards greatness nor sagging to the lowest of lows. I hate reducing the film down to the laziness of the following, but: it is what it is, a tensionless 85-minutes of PG-13 pageantry.

Here’s what I did dig about BREAKING IN, other than the role-reversing intruders: Gabby Union. More specifically, I like that this movie is an unabashed celebration of strong-willed single-motherhood, however silly its means are of expressing it. Poised as a broad Mother’s Day release, there’s an appreciated triumph here in the depiction of not so much a vengeful mother as she is a capably, unbendingly defensive one. She goes to great lengths to protect her children, fiercely and ferociously so at times, which is hard not to root for. Alas, not much personality is painted on to the character of Shaun, not much is given in the way of rich characterization. Therefore, we’re kind of left to project what we know of Union onto the character, which is why she is undoubtedly the primary strength of the picture. What Shaun lacks in character Union atones for in physicality, showing out in a gruelingly exigent way that tests the limits of her body. But while I liked all of the tough motherly love, the topic deserves a far better screenplay, one that gives the main character an equal amount of personal complexity as it does commensurate foibles. Honestly, f it weren’t for Union, I’d like the film even less.

As for the script, it comes from Ryan Engle, who’s in the successful position of having his third and fourth feature screenplays turned into major motion pictures by two different studios, released over the course of a single month. The first was RAMPAGE at Warner Bros., this one at Universal, and both suffer the same level of overt silliness and generic paint by numbers plot structure that’s hard not to roll your eyes at. And like RAMPAGE, I am willing to forgive many of the shortcomings of this screenplay almost solely due to the charisma of its star. The difference here, despite liking Union more than I do the Rock, is the fact that Shaun is never given enough of an invested back-story or enough of a formidable foe to really make the dramatic tension work. The bottom line is this: these screenplays have to be better. They can be and need to be. We deserve better, the lovely Union deserves better, for crying out loud, holiday or not, Mothers deserve better!

Extra Tidbit: BREAKING IN opens wide Friday, May 11th.
Source: AITH.com



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