Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Ajiona Alexus, Levi Meaden, Seth Carr, Mark Furze, Jason George, Christa Miller, Damien Leake
Written by: Ryan Engle
Directed by: James McTeigue
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, menace, bloody images, sexual references, and brief strong language
Running Time: 88
Date: 05/11/2018

Breaking In (2018)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Mom Before the Storm

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Gabrielle Union is appealing and Billy Burke's calm simmer is fun, but otherwise this home invasion thriller is a dull pack of cliches; not one idea hasn't been used before in a hundred other movies.

In Breaking In, Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union) heads back to her childhood home after the untimely death of her estranged father. She has her children, Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and Glover (Seth Carr), in tow, to help get the house — a sprawling, high-tech mansion — ready for selling.

It's not long before things start to look awry, and soon four intruders, led by the reasoning, unruffled Eddie (Billy Burke), have taken the children hostage and locked Shaun outside. She catches one of their number, and then uses her knowledge of the house to gain the upper hand. But the men have Shaun outnumbered and she will not be able to deter them from their goal.

Directed by James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin, The Raven), Breaking In runs only 88 minutes, and it could have been a quick, snappily-paced nail-biter. But instead, it feels as if the screenplay was once meatier, and that some character development was chopped out. As of now, there are bare-bones traces of deeper characters.

Certainly minimalist characters can be fascinating in other movies, but here they are just empty shells. Moreover, the screenplay sets up a few sturdy ideas that could have been turned into something if anyone had paid attention to them, such as a 90-minute time limit before the police come to investigate the disrupted alarm, or automatic lights or a drone camera, established in the early scenes.

These things are used in a cursory way, with no payoff. Mostly, characters just wander around the giant house, and simply appear in exactly the right (or wrong) place at exactly the right (or wrong) time, with no suspense whatsoever.

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