You’re on a weekend away with your children, dealing with selling your multi-millionaire father’s luxury mansion after his untimely death, when you are targeted and held hostage by a team of motivated criminals, seeking to rob the property. It might not be a situation we can all find ourselves relating to, but it’s the one that Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union) finds herself in, in James McTeigue’s latest feature, the rather unoriginal titled thriller, Breaking In.
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” so the saying goes and that counts double if the woman scorned is also a mother. McTeigue decided to present the concept of this fierce mother protecting her cubs by placing it within the confines of a robbery/hostage thriller. In both premise and execution, Breaking In is fairly unremarkable. Following a recognisable structure, it bares a resemblance with any number of fairly generic thrillers, but as I watched it, it began to feel more akin to David Fincher’s Panic Room (1999). However, despite being comparable in its premise to that film, it just couldn’t capture the same tension and energy. The concept of Breaking In is a decent enough one, but it is never really able to build upon its conceptual ideas.
The gang of bad guys who invade the house are pitched as being a rag tag band of criminals with differing motivations and characteristics. But individually they all feel like generic bad guys; a smart, cold leader; a tech savvy key man; the weak link who is on the edge of changing heart and the psychopathic one likely to go rogue. The house is essentially invaded by bland crime character tropes. Gabrielle Union does a good enough job playing the kick ass mom looking to rescue her kids, but there’s never any real feeling that she can’t overcome this band of average criminals. That feeling only serves to dissipate any potential tension that could have built up.
The trend towards empowered, strong female characters who are smart, tough and savvy is a welcome one, and adds degrees of diversity into genre films that need it, but this all felt a bit too clunky. It wanted to be a tense stand off set within a modern super high tech house, a film with a smart spine, but it fell flat. It falls into that common pile of ordinary films which will soon be littering second hand shops.
There’s nothing offensive or particularly bad about this film, it’s well enough assembled and moves along with a steady pace, but Gabrielle Union’s character doesn’t get to punch through with much force because her enemies are just bland foot soldiers easily distracted and dispatched. Subsequently the film is just another in a long list of films that merely exist to be forgotten. The kind of film where in a few months – when you notice it has been released on DVD – you will have only a vague remembrance of having seen it.
Ultimately, Breaking In is a fair enough attempt at a thriller, and it will fill 90 minutes, but it’s nothing to get excited about. Released into the traditional dumping ground of average and poor films, this just easily drifts into the cinematic ether until another similar thriller comes along to fill a void for a week or two. These are the apathy films, they elicit no particular opinion one way or another. They just are. Breaking In unfortunately finds itself comfortably within this group.