If you’ve never seen any "mother fighting for her kids lives" movie, then James McTeigue’s “Breaking In” might be for you. But for those of us who are tired of these attempts at storytelling, “Breaking In” is the same old same old kind of movie that suffers from a lack of ingenuity, believability, or anything that remotely feels compelling, minus Gabrielle Union and Billy Burke.
I digress (for now), as the film tells the simplistic story of a mother traveling to her recently deceased father’s estate, a father who had a rough relationship with his daughter. We’re not sure why, and we never learn why either, but her father was indicative of money laundering and more federally sketchy stuff. Nonetheless, our focus centralizes around the legacy he left behind in his daughter Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union), a mother of two whose attempting to sell her father’s estate because it reminds her of how much she hated her father. While trying to clean up the house for the real estate agent, a group of four cliche criminals “break-in.” One is the tech guy who created an algorithm to “break-in” to the safe, and another is an out of his element junkie looking for a big score. He’s that one criminal with some moral compass because he’s not a violent offender, and then the other is a sociopathic killer whose the only one that takes the steps that a dangerous criminal would in real life.
The leader is the calm thinker. He examines the scene and attempts to guess the next action of this desperate mother. He’s the one with those wordy and cliche lines like “she’s smart” or “we have your kids, and you are a woman at the mercy of strangers.” Billy Burke (the father of Bella from “Twilight”) makes these lines far more compelling than you would think, but you never fear him. It’s not because he’s not perceivingly threatening or captivating in his performance, but it's by the virtue that “Breaking In” is a film with no consequences. There is no reason to fear him because he’s not going to kill the kids, he’s not going to kill the mom, and he’s not going to kill anyone that would give this movie a depth of emotionality that would become impactful.
The only reason for “Breaking In” to exist is to give an oomph of power to motherhood, which is idiotic. Not because mothers are unimportant, but because they are. Mother’s should not be stooped to stupidity or drawn as something of irrational actuality. They should be depicted authentically so that both men and children can look at them with great respect for the long nights of taking care of us as infants, the breastfeeding, the cleaning of are cuts and scrapes, and the never-ending love that they give us. We should celebrate mother’s for their legitimate bravery to either stay with us or to make a controversial decision because it's her choice. “Breaking In” celebrates mother's about as much as most of us do which is by the least amount possible, which is the same amount of effort that James McTeigue puts into directing this film.
His shot composition, his painted canvas, his use of slow motion to extend the runtime, and the continuance of cliches and copy and paste method of films like “Panic Room” because I guess he’s a big fan of that movie. The entirety of “Breaking In” feels like a TV movie attempting to become something bigger than it needs to be. This movie should have been an ABC network television movie that supposedly celebrates mothers; even the editing feels as if it's cutting out profanity and violence to fit in the hemisphere that is appropriate for all audiences. McTeigue's outing here provides even more evidence that is was the Wachowskis’ that directed the inventive and groundbreaking comic book film, “V for Vendetta,” instead of McTeigue himself. It seems that he was a filmmaker that allowed two far more talented filmmakers to launch him into the realm of success and he’s never been able to follow them up with creative outings like “Ninja Assassin” or “The Raven.”
Gabrielle Union has a superior outing and showcases why she needs more meaty roles that would allow her to embrace the same fierceness and resiliency that is found in “Breaking In.” She throws herself into the action scenes and provides a certain grit to her character that allows for this film, in coordinance with Billy Burke’s performance, to gain at least a half a star grade from this critic. Gabrielle is an underrated talent, and it seems that James McTeigue is the opposite.
“Breaking In” either belongs in the straight to DVD bin or the TV movie genre, it definitely doesn’t belong on the big screen. It’s a shameful outing with nothing attached to the parts of its sum. It has a great message to stand up to those opposing your kids, but there are no inspiring consequences that show mothers that there are real consequences that occur if you do not stand up to those who refute your kids. The lack of legitimacy or realism is the biggest flaw in “Breaking In.” Never allowing a moment of fear or a scene in which nightmares become a reality for our characters. I am not sure whether this film was better than Halle Berry’s “Kidnap” which was a despicable outing as well, but it’s not torturing my eyes at least. Maybe it should have though; perhaps I wouldn’t have been as bored when I left the theatre as I was if it did. All I know is I wanted to break out of this movie after I saw her take down a former military man. Talk about exaggeration.
Editor’s note: Go watch “Tully” instead! It’s a more poignant and realistic depiction for mothers to enjoy and resonate with.