Film Review: ‘Breaking In’ Starring Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral
When the most fun you have with a movie is not from the movie itself but from the audience engagement for laughing at inappropriate times for what’s transpiring on screen, there’s something wrong with your film. In the case of Breaking In, there’s quite a bit more than just one thing.
Breaking In is one of the annual small budget thrillers that will somehow make three or four times its budget but then you’ll never hear about again (see: No Good Deed, When the Bough Breaks). The film stars Gabrielle Union as a mother of two on her way to fix up her recently passed father’s country home. Little does she know, however, that her father wasn’t simply involved in a car accident, but a planned attack as we see in the opening scene of the movie and his attackers are lurking inside his house on a tip that he’s stowing away millions in cash.
Everything we learn about our characters in this film is delivered so lazily through dialogue and even done so at the wrong times. Exposition slaps the viewer in the face with almost unbelievable conversations between Shaun (Union) and her teen daughter, Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus), as they reveal she did not have a good relationship with her criminal father. Not long after, it’s revealed why the antagonists are in this house through eye-rolling exposition-led conversation between them, as well. I mean, wouldn’t it make more sense for the viewer to find out at the same time as Shaun when she inevitably bests one of them and demands answers early on?
Every next scene is as predictable as the one prior. From the very start, director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) uses little subtlety in what plot points he’s going to revisit in the next ninety minutes. From the high tech security monitoring in every room to the portable drone with a camera, every scene is crafted to show you precisely what to expect later. What McTeigue really fails to capture here though is the core of what makes these home invasion thrillers work – the essence of how little time our heroes have and the tension it brings as it ticks away. At no point in this movie do the criminals ever show any sense of urgency knowing they have only a few hours before the police show up. In fact, they are barely shown searching the house at all and when they are, they’re flipping couch cushions and pillows. That’s right, couch cushions and pillows while looking for a safe that allegedly holds millions of dollars. Brilliant.
Performance wise, everyone seems bored. Union does her best as a mother doing whatever it takes to save her children, but with lack of an interesting screenplay by Ryan Engle (Non-Stop, The Commuter, Rampage), she doesn’t have much to work with and neither does the robbery crew. The clichéd crew is made up of the leader (Billy Burke), the techie (Mark Furze), the psychopath (Richard Cabral) and the criminal with a heart (Levi Meaden). The standout performance probably goes to Cabral, but not with good reasons. Every line delivered by him seemed to hit a sweet spot with the audience in regards to how cheesy and unbelievable they were that they became unintended comedy.
Again, despite its ridiculousness, Breaking In will likely turn a decent profit for the studio and we will continue to see more films like these on the horizon. I just hope that once in a while they will come equipped without such a formulaic, cookie-cutting mold and will be genuinely stimulating for the audience. Maybe?