PG-13: Violence, menace, bloody images, sexual references, and brief strong language
Universal Pictures, Will Packer Productions
1 Hr and 28 Minutes
Dir : James McTeigue | Writer: Ryan Engle
Cast: Gabrielle Union, Seth Carr, Ajiona Alexus, Jason George, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Levi Meaden, Damien Leake
INTRO: I was going to dedicate this introduction to a joke about the title of this movie being similar to “Get Out” but then I looked at the film’s writer and his name is Ryan Engle. I could’ve sworn I saw that name earlier this year. Apparently, I saw his name on not one but TWO movies of 2018. This dude wrote “The Commuter” and “Rampage”, the latter which literally released a month ago. I admire how quickly this man writes movies but, at the same time, I don’t consider either one as “good”. Hopefully this is good. Who knows?
The film follows single mother Shaun Russell (Union) who, after the sudden death of her father, takes her two children, Glover and Jasmine, to his Malibu mansion in order to settle his estate. But at the mansion are four criminal convicts intent on finding the deceased’s safe and making off with its goods.
I give the movie this: AT TIMES, there are realistic elements of what a real person would do in a life-threatening situation. The number of guys in this home invasion is a good number that keeps the story grounded. Shaun isn’t going against ten guys but, instead, four. Though it would’ve been a smart and more believable move to reveal that Shaun was skillfully trained in self-defense by her father, we ultimately see that she’s just a mom trying to get back to her kids.
An aspect that I appreciated were the antagonists who are conducting this home invasion. They all have different character types where their conflict isn’t only up against Shaun, but also each other. You have:
- The leader
- The young, scared guy who didn’t think that this job would get this violent
- The stereotypical hispanic psychopathic killer with big eyes, tattooed body, and so close to saying “holmes” at the end of every sentence
- The hacker who keeps referring to Shaun as “bitch”
By description, they may sound one-note – and by all means they are – but what makes them engaging is how much they cannot stand each other. The leader, Eddie (played by Billy Burke) called these guys, that HE knows, up to help him. Ultimately, the three goons don’t know each other and barely even get along with each other so there is a built-up tension between them. There are moments you question if Shaun really does have to off these guys herself or if they will end up being at each other’s throat. They are more than your average henchmen and one in particular that I liked the most was the young guy played by Levi Meaden. He is the most vulnerable guy in the group and at moments the story kind of shifts towards his direction where he has this inner turmoil of the intensity of the job. Children’s lives are at stake and two of the guys are willing to kill, but Sam is the one who thinks that this is excessive. Out of all the characters in the film, he is the only one who shows complexity and depth.
Whoever did the casting in terms of Gabrielle Union’s film-daughter did a great job because Jasmine (played by Ajiona Alexus) is the spitting image of her. This girl has played the young version of Taraji P. Henson in not just “Empire” but also recently “Acrimony.” At this point Hollywood is looking at her as a mini Taraji, but now, seeing her next to Union, I just think of her as mini Gaby.
Why can’t Black thrillers be good? I’m tired of every promising Black thriller being diminished by either three entities:
- Tyler Perry
- Screen Gems
- Will Packer
“Breaking In” is a Will Packer production so you know where this is going to go.
Damn, this movie started off so strong. Granted, even though the beats of the beginning are stolen straight from “Get Out”, it’s engaging. Then, right before the action kicks in, the film lazily displays Shaun’s past and her bad relationship with her criminal dad. It’s not through a flashback or subtle hints; the way we get it is through a call from her husband who doesn’t even speak like a person, for he just gives all of the exposition necessary for us to know about Shaun’s relationship with her dad when it was already addressed much more realistically in an earlier scene.
This movie had the potential to be fun and entertaining. This could’ve been a badass thriller. But of course, it is written and directed with little to no effort and it’s angering. “Breaking In” is so bland that it takes the most generic and uninspiring routes possible. You know how I just said how Sam was the most interesting person in here? They do nothing with him at all. We dedicate so much time to this character – arguably more than our central character – that what they could’ve done was have him be that guy who has a change of heart and helps Shaun reunite with her kids. But Engle doesn’t have the brains to do that.
McTeigue’s direction is painfully as bad as Engle’s writing where the shot composition is so poor and lazy that a lot of the shots are laughable and constantly confusing. With other home invasion thrillers, most notably “Don’t Breathe”, director Fede Álvarez played around each room in the house his characters were trapped in and was playing on a large scale. The majority of the shots were not close ups.
Álvarez made sure that you were able to see where each and every character was inside Stephen Lang’s house as he played with his surroundings and used them for great effect. Here, numerous shots are close ups where you are unable to see much of the background in order for you to detect where in the house each character is. You would cut from Shaun to Sam who are walking in the same direction but you know they are nowhere close to each other so it comes off as confusing rather than thrilling.
A majority of the characters are onenote but the one who pissed me off the most was the leader, Eddie. Not only is Burke’s delivery in typical villain dialogue, but he:
- Doesn’t have a fully thought-out plan
- Speaks in too many metaphors centering on motherhood
- Could’ve easily accomplished his goal of just robbing the house safe and sound if he wasn’t so far up his own ass
Seriously, I hate the antagonist not because he’s evil but because he’s just a fucking idiot. There are so many moments where logically he should’ve let Shaun and her family go since she had no interest in being at the house in the first place. No, he just strokes his own ego by making the situation complicated WHEN IT DIDN’T NEED TO BE THIS COMPLICATED. He is just so incompetent that at a specific point you realize this guy has no idea what his plan is.
You think Shaun is a badass by the trailer? No, she gets her ass handed to her a handful of times in the movie. Sometimes her actions are so silly that you can do nothing but laugh. There are shots where in split moments she’s nearly caught, the antagonists emerge out of a room, and in the background Shaun is silently running away. On one hand, I respect the reality of that action instead of her just completely disappearing; on the other hand, IT’S COMPLETELY STUPID! Despite moments where she looks like a badass with certain scowls she makes and with those times she outwits her foes Kevin McCalister style, Shaun isn’t a strong character. If Engle put more care into his writing, he could’ve made Shaun a convincingly kick-ass character. But no. We see her get beaten down plenty of times and the moments where she wins are sparse.
There are sporadic moments where it has the same thrills as “Don’t Breathe” but it eventually gets as cartoonish as “Home Alone” to an extent that death has little to no rules. A dude gets run over by a car and then moments later, he gets back up and it just shows him bruised. Shit, someone hits him with a pool pole and it just breaks over his back like he’s indestructible when he’s just averagely built. There are no rules with the stakes and it gets so stupid that by the end, you go,
And then walk out stating,
Bland, silly, and thoroughly incompetent from both the writing and directing department, “Breaking In” offers nothing new to the home invasion thriller storyline, but instead wastes potential on something what could’ve been an entertaining vehicle for Gabrielle Union who deserves much better roles than this.
Super Scene: Shaun plays hide and seek.