Breaking In

**1/2

Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

Breaking In
"The problem with Breaking In is not that it is silly, but that it isn't quite silly enough."

Director James McTeigue and writer Ryan Engle have stolen a march on the upcoming heist film Ocean's 8 with this silly but moderately enjoyable female-led crime drama, which stars Gabrielle Union as mother Shaun Russell, who's trip to clean out her recently deceased (and very wealthy, due to suspected criminal dealings) father's fortress-like country house turns into a battle to save her two young children from the criminal gang who got inside just ahead of her.

The mismatched and unstable break-in crew take her children hostage, activate the enhanced security shutter and surveillance systems and demand she guide them to the safe they think is hidden deep in the home. But the slick gang leader hasn't counted on Shaun simply refusing to play ball and instigating a cat-and-mouse game in return from her position trapped outside.

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The problem with Breaking In is not that it is silly, but that it isn't quite silly enough. The film's high points come when Gabrielle Union breaks suddenly into bad-ass mode on the unsuspecting criminals (who are all male, with the film delighting in showing their amazement at this normal-seeming woman's talent for improvisation and brutality), stabbing one with a broken wine glass, stealing another's knife to gut him, and devising a truly barmy game of brinksmanship over a gasoline-sodden pile of money with the ringleader.

But there aren't enough of these high-octane moments, and though Union and the actors playing her children are an effective enough empathy unit, they are pared off against villains who aren't very charismatic and seem plucked straight out of central casting: you can literally see the checkboxes being ticked as 'unstable gangbanger', 'regretful youngster' and 'slick but frustrated older leader' appear on screen in succession. Without enough humour and personality to fuel this drama, or smart uses of the house's confines and security system, attention starts wandering to the logic gaps, and there are a handful, many of them centring around the villain's odd refusal to really exploit their trump card. For a group of thugs who have a mother's children hostage and only 90 minutes before the security tripwire summons the cops, they keep randomly forgetting that they have this leverage, allowing Union to run rings around them. As a result, Breaking in never really breaks out of the medium-level groove it settles into.

Reviewed on: 11 May 2018
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Breaking In packshot
A woman tries to save her children, who are being held hostage in her father's fortress-like country house.
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