Released in the US just in time for Mother’s Day, Breaking In is a no-frills home invasion thriller that will put every mum’s maternal instinct on red alert. It stars Gabrielle Union as a mother determined to save her two kids from the clutches of four bad guys who are threatening to kill them. For anyone looking for an empty-headed, meat-and-potatoes alternative to The Avengers this weekend, this could be for you.
Union stars as Shaun Russell, heading away to her deceased father’s vacation home in Wisconsin with her two children, teenager Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and younger brother Glover (Seth Carr). We see her father being murdered in the opening scene and apart from a brief outline of his shady criminal past we never learn anything else about Shaun or her father beyond their strained relationship.
The trio arrives at the property and discovers it is protected by a Fort Knox-style high-tech security system, although it appears as if the bad guys have already found a way around it to sneak inside. Led by the bored-looking Eddie (Billy Burke) they are searching for $4m they believe has been stashed away somewhere in the house. Shaun ends up trapped outside as the system goes into lockdown, leaving her kids trapped inside with Eddie and his goons. One thing you don’t mess with is a mother’s bond with her kids and Shaun gets to work trying to save them.
Anyone who has seen Jodie Foster (and a young Kristen Stewart) in Panic Room will recognise the similarity of the plot. Although, the big difference here is found in the reversal of the roles with the victim left on the outside looking in. Thankfully for Shaun, she is up against a bunch of cartoon bad guys who play up to every expected thriller cliché in the book to make her job a lot easier.
Try as she might, Union’s commitment to the role isn’t enough to elevate the film beyond the mediocrity around her. Director James McTeigue doesn’t seem to have any interest in building suspense or tension and wastes a good opportunity to create a sense of claustrophobia around the kids and the criminals coming under siege.
Despite being a film about a woman outside trying to break in, McTeigue spends most of the time inside, forgetting the entire set-up in the process in Breaking In. There are also dozens of security cameras positioned around the house but not once are these used to form a new visual perspective or point of view, instead opting to shoot every scene with little-to-no imagination.
Breaking In is no brains entertainment that will block out 90 minutes easily enough, yet compared to similar popcorn thrillers like Taken or Unstoppable it barely warrants a mention. Fans of Gabrielle Union will enjoy the energy she brings to her role but for the vast majority of the audience, it would make more sense to wait for it to appear on Netflix where it won’t feel out of place at all.