Mother’s Day weekend is always good for a few movies that highlight moms doing pretty great things. For Life of the Party, it was watching Melissa McCarthy finding herself in college as a fully-grown adult. For Breaking In, it’s watching Gabrielle Union beat the snot out of out anonymous henchmen as she saves her children from certain doom.
Although that concept sounds appealing, those involved with Breaking In found a way to strip it of all its fun, making us all lose in the end.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: James McTeigue
Written By: Ryan Engle
Starring: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Ajiona Alexus, Levi Meaden, and Seth Carr
Upon the sudden death of her father, Shaun (Union) is bestowed with his massive, secluded mansion. But, Shaun and her father didn’t exactly get along, so she immediately decides to scope out the property before putting it on the market.
Shaun arrives at the house with her kids, intent on staying for the weekend to get a proper estimate. However, after arriving, Shaun quickly learns that her children and she are not alone — robbers have already invaded the house, and they won’t stop coming after the family until they get what they came for in the first place.
Breaking In isn’t a Blumhouse production, but it certainly looks like one, doesn’t it? Let’s run through a few hallmarks of recent Blumhouse films:
- A high-concept plot
- A horror/thriller film
- A low budget
- A recognizable star or social media influencer that can attract moviegoers to go to the film on opening weekend
- A PG-13 rating to allow younger audiences to see the film and increase the possibilities of profitability
- Universal Pictures is the distributor of the project
Breaking In checks all these boxes, making it even weirder that it’s not a Blumhouse movie itself. The production company has had such a long-winded run of success that it was only a matter of time before more producers went to the micro-budget route of filmmaking. It’s no secret that the film industry is shifting towards more of these films, so we better get used to them.
Breaking In Includes a Fascinating Twist on the Home Invasion Subgenre
There’s already too many home invasion movies in the world, so any new films within the subgenre need to add a little spin on it, and Breaking In does just that on a structural level. Not only did I let out a sigh of relief when one character noted that the cell reception in the area was great (isn’t it the worst waiting for the ham-fisted reasoning as to why the characters can’t call help?), but the general construction of this plot is refreshing. Breaking In literally switches the genre on its head, forcing the sympathetic lead character to break into the house as the criminals barricade themselves behind military-grade security.
There will always be a visceral reaction to seeing intruders in a home in a film since it’s such a relatable fear for the viewer, but Breaking In goes a step further while also putting the main character in a position of power. Gabrielle Union is game for such a task, and she’s ready to scrap and claw her way to her kids.
Breaking In is Aggressively Bland
And yet, Breaking In doesn’t do anything interesting with that inventive setup, stranding Gabrielle Union in a bummer of a film.
Breaking In feels like it was constructed in a lab from the remains of past home invasion thrillers, becoming an amalgam of them all without using any of their fun, wacky elements. Rather, Breaking In sticks to the greatest hits, falling back on the usual tropes that include the following:
- A group of misfit gang members
- One of the robbers is a vague racial stereotype
- A leader of the robbers has slicked back hair and a gravelly voice that is meant to intimidate
- Sympathetic characters use the air ducts to move through the house
- Robbers fight among themselves, allowing for the main character to get the upper hand
- Fights include kitchen objects in hand-to-hand combat in lieu of regular fighting instruments (but without an inventive touch)
- Quick-cutting action to make scenes feel more kinetic
- A way-too-serious tone to try to make everything feel more important than it should
- An overly convoluted backstory that weighs down the supposedly streamlined plot.
Let this be a lesson for future reviews: if I break out a list, odds are the movie probably isn’t worth your time. Hell, I probably could have listed more familiar beats, but Breaking In has already started to vanish from my memory.
The entire movie is walking on egg shells, afraid to take a chance and go full-on in its camp factor or double down on the violence and become an R-rated, gory ride. It’s safe in every respect, and that’s never the way to go.
The Internal Logic Does Not Hold Up
Rather than put the emphasis on thrills, Breaking In turns to plot for intrigue, and that’s never what you want out of an inherently schlocky thriller. For example, if the house has such great security, why is it so easy for robbers to break into it in the first place?
Admittedly, there’s a piece of logic in every movie that you’ll just have to accept in order for it to work, but Breaking In tests one’s patience more than it should, hoping that slick editing and decent acting will distract most moviegoers. James McTeigue does enough in that respect to entertain most, but the writing gets in the way of what should be a straightforward film that’s full of thrills. Breaking In is needlessly convoluted despite being overly simple, and that contrast is consistently frustrating.
Lacking a personality and the fun that is needed to elevate the growing list of home invasion thrillers, Breaking In plays everything right down the middle in hopes of appealing to everyone. However, in doing so, it most likely won’t appeal to many at all.
While not without its moments (especially from Gabrielle Union in the lead role), Breaking In just doesn’t do anything well enough to warrant praise. Instead, it’s a film that most will quickly forget as more films release to the public in the coming weeks. In a time where everyone is cranking out content, settling for average is never the right idea.
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