Courtesy of Universal Pictures
In “Breaking In," James McTeigue’s lifeless thriller, Gabrielle Union stars as Shaun Russell, a mother being tasked with selling her late father's estate, located at Lake Constance near Wisconsin. She never liked her father, and apparently he was being investigated by the DA in a plot hole that never developed. So she and the kiddos must pack up the mansion and leave it in a good selling condition, on what’s supposed to be a quiet weekend expenditure.
The house is a fortress, with cameras and extensive security measures - panic rooms and such - which naturally makes it the perfect target for a trio of clueless dimwits, (lead with snear by the great Billy Burke doing his best to make this work,) that are on the hunt for $4 million bucks stashed in a safe. Simple, right? Of course, the wrench is Shaun and her two children have, incidentally, found themselves in the middle of the heist. You basically know the rest: The bad guys take the kids hostage and now the mom, desperate and scared, will do anything to save her family. Yawn.
"Breaking In" is as generic and bumbling as they come. It's a home invasion thriller. The same thriller we've seen countless, and I MEAN countless times before. I'm a sucker for a good one (see Harrison Ford in "Firewall" or "Hostage" starring Bruce Willis) but those movies attempted to do something different (plus, and no disrespect to Union, she's no Ford or Willis and Burke is no Paul Bettany.)
It doesn't help the crew of bad guys are as dumb as a doornail, and Union is given every chance she can to go postal on the fellas holding her babies captive (not a single one for these buffoons comes up with a plausible way to stop her, they need to turn in their “bad guy” cards.) Some of the sequences are fairly impressive: an example includes when Shaun parkour's around the house moving like a silent assassin and there are some good mano y mano showdowns between Union and Burke that I enjoyed with a grin.
But "Breaking In" can't shake the veil of predictability and the insufferable routine these movies tend to get bogged down from: "Do what I say or your family dies" - how many times have we heard that before? I like these movies because when this genre is done right and evokes real suspense - (look up David Fincher’s masterpiece “Panic Room”) - it gives me a giddy sugar high. But this film is like watching a diluted version of a much better movie wanting to come out.
So if you thought "Breaking In" was going to shatter the glass ceiling of genre-based thrillers - (I'm sure many of you assumed it would) - I'm sorry to report: it doesn't.