×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Breaking In’

Gabrielle Union provides the only spark in this painfully generic home invasion thriller.

With:
Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Ajiona Alexus, Seth Carr, Richard Cabral, Levi Meaden, Mark Furze, Christa Miller.

Rated PG-13  1 hour 28 minutes

Instead of those tired old flowers or brunch, why not treat mom to a home invasion thriller this Mother’s Day? That seems to be the novel pitch underlining James McTeigue’s “Breaking In,” in which Gabrielle Union’s maternal instincts turn her into an overnight John McClane when her children are taken hostage. Unfortunately, both Union and your mom deserve much better. Coasting for as long as it can on the considerable charms of its star, “Breaking In” is otherwise a work of profound half-assedness, running through the paces of its bare-bones framework with all the verve, energy and invention of a night-watchman winding down the last hour of his shift. In the end, the only real suspense comes from seeing whether the film can stretch its wafer-thin premise and paucity of ideas out to a full 90 minutes – and at 88 minutes with credits, even there it comes up short.

If nothing else, “Breaking In” deserves some sort of credit for wasting almost no time on pleasantries, never bothering to give its characters occupations, backstories, or much in the way of personalities. Our heroine Shaun (Union) has taken her two kids – tech savvy grade schooler Glover (Seth Carr) and iPhone-addicted teenager Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) – to the secluded rural Wisconsin mansion where she grew up. Her estranged father, a wealthy white-collar criminal of some undefined variety, was recently run down by a car and killed on the eve of his sentencing under circumstances only she seems to find unsuspicious, and she has to spend the weekend on the 25-acre property before she can sell it. (Alas, this is no Scooby Doo-style win-an-inheritance-by-surviving-a-night-in-a-haunted-house arrangement; she just needs to meet up with the real estate agent.)

The three arrive, expositorily discuss the details of the house’s high-tech security system (there are surveillance cameras, a drone, and some sort of lockdown shield system), and before they even have a chance to order a pizza, a quartet of assailants attack. The mismatched foursome consists of sinister leader Eddie (Billy Burke, fighting a filmlong battle to suppress a yawn), a conscientious yet dim tweaker type (Levi Meaden), a psychopathic yet dim bruiser type (Richard Cabral, dialing the Latino gangster clichés well beyond the point of parody), and a safecracking former military man (Mark Furze). The latter is quickly subdued by Shaun after a chase into the woods, leaving her free to roam the outskirts of the property, but with her kids trapped with the three baddies inside the house. In case we’ve somehow missed the stakes of Shaun’s dilemma, Eddie offers script notes to her in his first villainous address: “You’re a woman, alone at the mercy of strangers, and your greatest weakness is locked inside this house.”

As it turns out, Shaun’s father had liquidated his assets before his death, storing $4 million in a hidden safe somewhere in the sprawling estate. There’s also a ticking-clock wrinkle, about which the film frequently forgets, as the burglars have 90 minutes to find the money before police are called, having disabled the alarm on their way in. In theory, there should be a novel, “Panic Room”-in-reverse twist to the premise here, with Shaun having to break her way into the heavily fortified house, instead of breaking out. But this would require a degree of invention that the film seems uninterested in even attempting – Shaun breaks in and out of the property with ease, hatches plans whose parameters never become apparent, and manages to be exactly where she needs to be at all times, basic continuity or physics be damned.

A veteran action director, McTeigue shoots individual fight scenes well enough, but never provides any modulation or sense of escalating terror – at no point is anyone allowed to crack a smile, and even when the children are threatened with imminent death, the film’s pace never seems to quicken. Union remains thoroughly watchable in just about anything, and what little enjoyment “Breaking In” provides comes from watching her transform from an average bougie mom into some combination of “Taken’s” Bryan Mills, Jason Bourne, and Spider-Man. If only the film allowed her to have a little fun doing it.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Breaking In'

Reviewed at Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, May 9, 2018.

Production: A Universal Pictures release and presentation of a Will Packer Prods., Practical Pictures production. Produced by James Lopez, William Packer, Craig Perry, Sheila Taylor, Gabrielle Union. Executive producers, Jeff Morrone, Valerie Bleth Sharp, Jamie Primak Sullivan.

Crew: Directed by James McTeigue. Screenplay: Ryan Engle. Camera (color): Toby Oliver. Editor: Joseph Jett Sally. Music: Johnnny Klimek.

With: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Ajiona Alexus, Seth Carr, Richard Cabral, Levi Meaden, Mark Furze, Christa Miller.

More Film

  • Thomasin McKenzie and Essie Davis

    Thomasin McKenzie and Essie Davis to Star in 'Justice of Bunny King'

    Essie Davis, star of “The Babadook” and autumn festival hit “Babyteeth,” and “Jojo Rabbit” co-star Thomasin McKenzie will headline upcoming drama “The Justice of Bunny King.” The film, now shooting in New Zealand, is a triumph over adversity tale about women fighting their way back from the bottom of society. It is the debut feature [...]

  • Calm With Horses

    Nick Rowland Talks About Toronto Debut Film 'Calm With Horses'

    “Calm with Horses,” which made its world premiere in Toronto’s TIFF in the Discovery section, is the feature directorial debut of Nick Rowland (Amazon series “Ripper Street”), and stars Barry Keoghan (Marvel’s upcoming “The Eternals,” “Dunkirk”), Cosmo Jarvis (“Annihilation”), and Niamh Algar (BBC’s “The Virtues”). The script, which was adapted from Colin Barrett’s short story [...]

  • Colin Trevorrow Directs Jurassic World Short

    Colin Trevorrow Returns to Jurassic World in Short Film 'Battle at Big Rock'

    Dinosaurs are roaming the Earth again. In a new short from “Jurassic World” director Colin Trevorrow, rogue beasts wreak havoc on a family camping trip. The eight-and-a-half minute film, titled “Battle at Big Rock,” takes place a year after the events of “Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom.” The 2018 blockbuster — starring Chris Pratt and Bryce [...]

  • Bert Kreischer The Machine

    Legendary Lands Rights to Bert Kreischer’s Viral Story 'The Machine' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Legendary has optioned the rights to develop comedian Bert Kreischer’s story “The Machine” into a feature film following its viral success, sources tell Variety. The video has generated more than 85 million views on Facebook and YouTube since hitting the social media channels in December 2016 and Legendary moved aggressively to land the rights. Kreischer [...]

  • Margot Robbie poses at the launch

    Margot Robbie in Talks to Executive Produce, Star in Comedy 'Fools Day'

    Margot Robbie is in negotiations to executive produce and star as a fourth-grade teacher in New Line’s comedy “Fools Day.” New Line has acquired Cody Blue Snider’s short film of the same name to adapt into the feature project. Snider, who co-wrote and directed the short, will direct the full-length feature from a script he [...]

  • M Night Shyamalan'Glass' film premiere, Arrivals,

    M. Night Shyamalan Sets Two New Films at Universal

    M. Night Shyamalan will write and direct two new movies at Universal Pictures, the studio announced Monday. The currently untitled thrillers will be released in theaters on Feb. 26, 2021 and Feb. 17, 2023, respectively. “M. Night Shyamalan continues to create exciting, highly original stories that keep global audiences on the edge of their seats,” [...]

  • La Llorona

    Venice Film Review: 'La Llorona'

    Guatamalan writer-director Jayro Bustamante had a dream debut with “Ixcanul” in 2015: The richly textured folk drama premiered in Competition at Berlin and won him the Alfred Bauer Prize, before going on to healthy international arthouse exposure. So it’s surprising that Bustamante’s subsequent work, while amply delivering on his first feature’s promise, has been comparatively [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content