Review: Breaking In

Written by Aaron Radcliff:

It’s tough work being a mother. It’s hard, thankless work that’s often gone overlooked by many all in the pursuit of raising a family and giving their kids the best life possible. Some could say it’s easy to underestimate just how much moms do and what they’re truly capable of. Such seems to be the case with Breaking In.

Contending with Life of the Party as the Mother’s Day weekend flick meant to entertain and empower our birthgivers, Breaking In stars Gabrielle Union as Shaun, a wife and mother of two. When her estranged criminal father is killed, Shaun and her children go to his fortress-like second home to prepare it to be sold off. However, they picked the wrong day to arrive as they’re trapped by a group of criminals looking to steal a fortune hidden somewhere in the house. Shaun must use all her strength and cunning to beat the crooks at their own game and rescue her children.

Home invasion is a rather bland sub-genre of horror/thriller. I know some might take offense to that, but it’s a bandage we need to rip off already. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great additions to the category (both versions of Funny GamesYou’re Next, and The Strangers come to mind). The thing about those movies is they are violent, hard-R affairs or they manage to focus on the more psychological side of the horror. Not committing to one or the other and hoping to straddle the PG-13 line is a tough thing to do that doesn’t always work, and unfortunately, that’s the case for Breaking In. 

I get it. It’s Mother’s Day weekend and, if you’re taking Mom to the movies, I’m sure she’d rather see a movie about a strong woman kicking ass rather than seeing a bunch of superheroes try to stop a giant purple man from cool-cat snapping half of the universe out of existence. It’s also a fair assumption that most mothers don’t want to see guys getting brutally killed like in some of the aforementioned movies. If this came out at any other time, I think we could’ve gotten a darker film that was willing to commit to that.

Speaking of which, commitment is an issue here. It’s hard to gauge some of the driving forces in this. On the surface, we have the crims who want the money and a mom who wants to save her kids. But there are multiple instances of Shaun saying how she’s always been “underestimated.” How so? Because she’s a woman? Because of her race? Perhaps I’m too close-minded and focused on my own little world to pick up on some things, but there was never anything really given that says she should be underestimated. The lead criminal says multiple times that she should be feared because she’s a mother coming for her kids. The children, scared as they may be, don’t seem to doubt her ability to protect them. In fact, where did she get these skills anyway? Did she study under Liam Neeson between Taken sequels?

Maybe it was self-doubt that I failed to pick up on. Or maybe the film failed to explain anything.

We get very little backstory behind Shaun and her dad besides the basics. The criminals are a trio of generic white guys who are easily mistaken for each other and a Hispanic guy who attempts to be a deranged psycho but delivers his lines in an unconvincing monotone. In fact, we focus on one of the criminals who constantly seems to be cycling through a series of moral conundrums and I just wish the plot would decide if he’s going to stay a bad guy or turn good already, for god’s sake.

Again, this is a movie aimed toward mothers. Not just for its release date, but its focuses. The problem is, however, that instead of showing mothers as strong, capable women who will stop at nothing to protect their kids, it’s a shallow superhero caricature that crosses the line of thoughtful representation to just being blasé about it all.

Maybe I need to be a mother to pick up on certain things, though.

Breaking In isn’t a bad movie. Where it succeeds where last week’s movie, Bad Samaritan, failed is that it’s mercifully short and at least keeps you involved in the action and sneaking around. It is a strict tour guide that doesn’t deviate from the path and keeps moving you along, not allowing enough time to poke holes during the trip. Unfortunately, it’s just not that interesting. It just is. If it were a fruit, it’d be a banana. Not great, not bad, just is.

It’s not offensive enough to anger Mom if you take her to see it. In fact, it might even be a little endearing. Who knows? This Mother’s Day, if you’re going to praise Mom through film, you could do worse. You could show her Mommie Dearest or Sophie’s Choice. I’m sure she’d LOVE that.

Score: 5 out of 10


Image via Universal Pictures


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