Breaking In movie review: setting her house in order

Breaking In yellow light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

This perfunctory home-invasion flick can’t whip up much suspense, and it strains for a feminism that it doesn’t know how to engage. But Gabrielle Union’s movie-star charisma shines through.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love Gabrielle Union
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

The home invasion in coming from inside the house! Shaun (Gabrielle Union: Top Five) takes her kids — teen Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and preteen Glover (Seth Carr: Black Panther) — to her family’s Wisconsin lakeside estate for the weekend, to prepare it for sale after the death of her “prominent Chicago businessman” father. The trouble is, bad guys led by Eddie (Billy Burke: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2) got there first: they’re already in the rambling manse, searching for a hidden safe that, they believe, contains Dad’s secret stash of $4 million in cash. Because of shenanigans, Shaun gets locked out while Eddie and Co. hold the kids hostage, hoping to trade them for the location of the safe. There’s an intercom with which Shaun and Eddie can communicate, you see, as well as massively paranoid security features that make it really, really difficult for her to get back in.

The script, by Ryan Engle (The Commuter), finds a new way to deal with the eternal question of “Why don’t they just call for help?” and it’s one that isn’t about a remote location with no cell service. But that’s about the extent of Breaking In’s cleverness. Director James McTeigue (Survivor) — who clearly is never going to make another movie as good as his first, V for Vendetta — can’t manage to whip up much suspense from the underwritten action and perfunctory dialogue, which strains for a go-girl, enraged-mama-bear feminism but doesn’t know how to fully engage it. Still, Union’s movie-star charisma shines through, and she handles the robust physicality of adrenaline-fueled anger in a cheerworthy way. Let’s consider this a dry run for the sleek suave spy thriller she surely must be destined for.

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