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The Independent Critic

Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Levi Meaden, Ajiona Alexus, Seth Carr, Damian Leake
James McTeigue
Ryan Engle
Rated R
88 Mins.
Universal Pictures

 "Breaking In" Can't Escape Tired Tropes and Traps 
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There are those who will find Breaking In to be a serviceable enough of a thriller to justify it's relatively slight 88-minute running time, though considering the state of politics in the U.S. these days it's pretty clear that there are people who can be convinced of just about anything. 

The truth is that Breaking In fails, even within the relatively low standards of a decent B-movie. It's the kind of film that you enter hoping for a few laugh out loud chills n' thrills and end up happy enough if the popcorn isn't stale and you snag the free refill on your massively overpriced beverage. 

James McTeigue's directorial career started off promising enough with 2005's V for Vendetta, an uneven, badass film that we've allowed ourselves to be convinced is much better than it really is. Unfortunately, McTeigue seemed to forget that you're supposed to get better along the way and followed up that initial promise with the likes of Ninja Assassin, The Raven, and Survivor before skipping happily over to television for a bit of a breather. 

Breaking In is a reminder that perhaps McTeigue is best suited for television where his choppy, episodism (I made that word up just for McTeigue!) can be made to look normal by the presence of commercials and public service announcements. 

In the awkwardly constructed Breaking In, Shaun (Gabrielle Union) finds herself going up against two bland as f*** baddies, played by Billy Burke and Richard Cabral, who are determined to steal a loaded safe from her late father's (Damian Leake) secluded Malibu ranch. Not surprisingly, Shaun and daddy were estranged and also not surprisingly daddy was a wee bit of a baddie. The ranch is a high-tech wonderland protected by every device imaginable and before long Shaun ends up locked outside while her kids (Ajiona Alexus and Seth Carr) are locked inside with the bad guys. 

Ryan Engle's script builds in the tension to make Breaking In a decent thriller. All McTeigue really had to do was put all the pieces together in some semblance of a convincing fashion, but Breaking In breaks down quickly and it seems like the cast can't decide if the film is supposed to be a serious thriller, a darkly comical one, or an outright B-movie.

In the end, Breaking In doesn't work on any of these levels as the film's mostly one-location set is an incoherent labyrinthian mishmash that is as nondescript as the baddies themselves. 

For a while, it's fun watching Gabrielle Union go into completely badass mama mode, but the thrill wears thin quickly and there's only so many places she can take the paper thin character. The ranch's alarm is tripped fairly early on, a plot device that should build the tension as Shaun works to get to her kids and the bad guys work to get their cash before the police arrive from a couple hours away. Unfortunately, the plot device never really becomes more than a plot device and McTeigue never really takes it anywhere that adds to the film's tension or any sense of impending danger. 

There's simply not much that can be said about a film that aims low and still manages to miss its mark, but that's what happens with Breaking In. 

When you see Breaking In's tagline, "Payback is a Mother!," you can't help but hope you've stumbled across a low-budget cheeky thriller that makes you giggle with its evil delights. Instead, the real mother is realizing you've spent 90 minutes of your time watching this tired collection of tropes and traps and you got so bored you forgot to snag that free refill on your beverage.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic