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To Say That I'm Disappointed in Breaking In Would Imply I Expected Anything From It.
'Breaking In' is a film that cashes in on the old saying that there's nothing stronger than a mother's love for her children. Caught in an impossible situation, a mother (Gabrielle Union) is forced to not only fight for her life but the life of her children as well. Sounds like a compelling movie, right? Well, the problem is that the threats she is facing include a bleach blonde tweaker and an ex-con who can't quite manage to grow a complete mustache. Needless to say, the mom is the most intimidating character in the entire film.
One of the most underrated principal in good storytelling is that a hero is only as good as their villain. We all love watching someone save the day, but the real icing on the cake is the bad guy. 'Breaking In' stumbles not because it has a bad premise or the leads aren't very good. It's because the bad guys are pretty pathetic. They're lead by Billy Burke, who actually does a pretty good job as the brains of the operation. It's just that his cohorts don't exactly strike terror in the hearts of the audience. Even the psycho, Mexican stereotype who is quick to kill (played by Richard Cabral) hardly makes audiences bat an eye, even though his eyes are pretty crazy. The poor casting and scripting behind these characters sets 'Breaking In' up for failure early on because there will never be a grand moment of overcoming the undefeatable villains.
Luckily, the leads of 'Breaking In' actually do a pretty damn good job. Gabrielle Union manages to create an empathic connection with audiences early one in the film. She's a natural as a mom just trying to get through a tough weekend with two whining kids. Her son (Seth Carr) is a tech geek who can't help annoying his older sister (Ajiona Alexus) who keeps her nose buried in her phone texting boys. In a way these characters are stereotypes, but they never quite cross over into cliche. Instead, the audience is able to identify with them instantly, meaning that the film can get right to the heart of its story without a lot of development. This is both a good and a bad thing in the end.
As good as Union is in 'Breaking In' though, she never gets a chance to seem larger than life. There's no hero's journey for her. No moment where her resolve changes or she gathers herself to do the insane and take on the criminals holding her kids hostage. Her character simply is and that's actually kind of boring. I'm sure that it's meant to demonstrate the kind of courage and resolve that all mothers are supposed to have when it comes to defending their children, but that's just an assumption and the byproduct of weak writing by Ryan Engle (who has had quite a year with 'Commuter' and 'Rampage'). In fact, it shares a lot of similarities with 'Commuter' in its lack of story structure and character development.
Overall, 'Breaking In' isn't much of a thriller because it never raises the stakes, only keeps them consistent. There's very little in the form of escalation, and even when it tries to, director James McTeigue never takes the time to lay out the implications. Not only that, but there's a real lack of visual flair to the film, which is odd considering McTeigue is so well known for it. Alas, this is a far cry from his epic revenge film, 'V for Vendetta.' Instead, it's a lackluster attempt at a home invasion movie that never manages to make audiences too concerned for the main characters' safety. The shots are all quick and never linger to raise suspense. 'Breaking In' feels very much like a rush to the finish line and even the anticlimactic ending isn't long enough to let anything sink in before the credits start to roll.
Unfortunately, 'Breaking In' is just another disappointing attempt at trying to snag an audience with a lackluster mother's day movie. To be perfectly fair, it did exceed my expectations, but considering how much I was dreading this flick, that isn't saying much. It's not a painful movie to watch like so many other action thrillers, but it never makes you feel anything at all. Instead, it just meanders along until the end and audiences are left asking "that's it?". I'm not mad that I saw this movie or even disappointed that I sat through it. Instead, I'm completely apathetic towards 'Breaking In'. I nothing it.
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