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Still from 2018's "Breaking In."

Breaking In June 15, 2018


James McTeigue 



Gabrielle Union

Billy Burke

Richard Cabral

Ajiona Alexus

Levi Meaden

Jason George

Seth Carr









1 Hr., 28 Mins.

on in Panic Room. So much so that it eventually comes to a point where it feels like the director, James McTeigue, borrowed a recipe from an Ina Garten cookbook but figured his take was original enough because it used regular vanilla instead of the “good” vanilla.


But even if nothing about Breaking In is exactly innovative, it’s still fun, if forgettable. It’s akin to one of those terrible but nonetheless entertaining woman-in-trouble thrill rides Ashley Judd seemed to be synonymous with 20 years ago. 


As Breaking In opens, our heroine, Shaun (Union), is en route to the Malibu mansion of her recently deceased father with her children (Seth Carr and Ajiona Alexus) in tow. And Shaun hopes the trip, which will mostly consist of untangling the intricacies of her father’s estate, will be a quick one: her and her father’s relationship was severely strained. 


When the family arrives at the property, however, it’s clear that this trip isn’t going to be quite as uneventful as planned. Not just because the Breaking In advertisements have already noisily suggested that the film we’re walking into is going to be a thriller, but also because the mansion itself is the type of disinviting, middle-of-nowhere labyrinth that home-invasion thrillers regularly spotlight. While posh, it’s so unsettlingly covered with security cameras and alarms, it’s like Shaun’s dad’s favorite movie was Fortress 2: Re-Entry. Unquestionably, the man had a reason to believe that he was in some sort of danger.


Our suspicions prove correct by nightfall. Just as Shaun’s ordering takeout for dinner, a quartet of thieves descend upon the house. And what a distinctive bunch this is: we have a slithering hoodlum doing his best Keanu Reeves imitation (Billy Burke); a conflicted, neck-bearded youngster (Levi Meaden); a sewer rat reincarnated as a knife-happy ruffian (Richard Cabral); and, basically, the criminal alternative to Moby (Mark Furze). Their objective? Leave the property with the $4 million Shaun’s father supposedly has stashed in his bedroom’s safe.


These thugs predictably won’t get away with it, though. We know this because the screenwriter, Ryan Engle, is a huge fan of one-liners like “I’m just a mom — you have no clue what I’m capable of,” preemptively signaling that no one involved in the making and marketing of this movie would even consider allowing anything remotely surprising or tragic. 


Yet here, we wouldn’t want anything less than a one-dimensional home-invasion thriller with a taste for clichés. Breaking In is as fun to mock as it is to get wrapped up in, intended to be equally silly and satisfying. That mindset wins us over: this is the the kind of simplistic movie where the disparity between good and evil is so old school that you want to do the stereotypical Italian chef kiss every time Shaun outwits a bad guy, for instance. 


The audience at the screening I attended evidently lapped that up: they applauded (and sometimes even voiced their pleasure) every time a villain got what they “deserved” during the vicious last act. I can’t say I didn’t join them.


This film won’t make you any wiser and you certainly won’t be thinking about it just hours after first seeing it. Even the stream of false endings — you know, the kind where you think someone died after getting their head clobbered with a rock but then they make a comeback at the worst possible time — don’t catch us off guard. But Breaking In is easily digestible and uncomplicatedly diverting. And it sure is nice to see the always-undervalued Union in a leading role. (Though I do wish she were given the opportunity to flex her acting muscles in something that isn’t a throwaway

potboiler.) B-


he concept of Breaking In, a serviceable albeit paint-by-number Gabrielle Union vehicle, is comparable to the one used by 2002’s Panic Room. The latter film, if you remember, revolved around a mother (Jodie Foster) and daughter (Kristen Stewart) who had to outsmart a coterie of burglars who heard through the grapevine that their home’s previous owner left behind $3 million in bearer bonds.


Breaking In, which is also a home-invasion thriller, lifts a lot of what went

This review also appeared in The Daily.

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