Director James McTeigue has been pretty selective with his projects, helming just three films since bursting on the scene with 2005’s V for Vendetta. In fact, his work on Breaking In, his fifth feature-length endeavour, is the first thing he’s done since 2015 outside of a few episodes of Netflix series Sense8 and Marco Polo. McTeigue’s newest project teams him with Gabrielle Union in a rare starring turn. Let’s see how it fares.
Following the murder of her estranged father, Shaun Russell (Union) packs up her two children and heads to the family’s palatial vacation home in suburban Wisconsin to start working on a sale as well as collect personal belongings. The property has been outfitted with a state-of-the-art security system, which is a result of her father’s less-than-savory actions that led to an indictment relating to financial crimes prior to his death.
Shortly after arriving Shaun starts to notice little oddities, but she doesn’t put them together until a man attempts to subdue her in the driveway. She’s able to fight him off, and after a struggle she returns to the residence only to find that both of her children have been taken captive by Eddie (Billy Burke) and a pair of accomplices, Sam (Levi Meaden) and the unstable Duncan (Richard Cabral), who lock down the house with her outside.
While the men search for a hidden safe purported to have more than $4 million in cash, Shaun must find a way inside to rescue her children, who have now seen the faces of their abductors. Raising the stakes even further, the criminals are in a race against the clock as disabling the alarm has triggered a countdown until law enforcement arrive.
Union is the best part of the film, and she does enough within its limited scope to show that she deserves to work more often and in larger roles (if she so desires). She comes across as strong and capable while never losing the maternal edge that all she wants out of this scenario is to get her kids home safely. To their credit, Ajiona Alexus and Seth Carr are solid (and not annoying) as Union’s kids.
Breaking In is well shot, tightly paced and wastes little time getting to the good stuff, which is important in a sub-90-minute movie. Some of the setups are clever, and the action has an edge to it with it not coming across as overly choreographed.
There’s almost nothing fresh here. No unique angles are explored and none of the plot twists are likely to surprise anyone. It’s all got a very cookie cutter vibe. Plot points are also tossed aside, most notably that the 90-minute countdown seems all but forgotten unless it needs to be brought up to explain a sense of urgency that is otherwise absent. It’s especially galling toward the end.
Another seemingly abandoned subplot is Union being barefoot. There are multiple establishing shots that she’s left her shoes inside, which was giving us Die Hard vibes, but then like 15 minutes later she’s randomly wearing shoes (ostensibly taken from the assailant she overcame). There’s even a deleted line of dialogue about it. It’s like they wanted to make her more vulnerable, decided against it but left in all the stuff about it.
We don’t usually harp on a film’s score, but Breaking In does itself no favours with music that telegraphs pretty much every major moment. It reminded us of the old Chili Palmer line, “If you’re gonna set somebody up, it’s gotta be a surprise.” It’s all way too obvious.
THE BONUS FEATURES
An alternate opening and a handful of deleted/extended scenes highlight the bonus materials, though there’s nothing of note contained within. In fact, the “extended” scenes are mostly indiscernible from what’s in the film, which makes watching them akin to just rewatching chunks of the movie. The behind the scenes content is more entertaining, mostly because Union and the filmmakers act as though this is the first action-oriented movie to star a woman.
There’s nothing exceptional about Breaking In, but Union delivers a solid showing in a completely competent film that you’re likely to forget in short order.