So much of storytelling is rooted in convention. It’s a lot like that old say, “Give the audience what they want just not how they expect it.” What the audience wants is often quite simple – a hero victorious, lovers reunited, the dog is safe, and so on and so on. Earlier this year, Gabrielle Union starred in a thriller called Breaking In from V for Vendetta director James McTeigue. It flipped the typical home invasion movie on its head, with its protagonist locked out of the home where the criminals have taken her children hostage. Unfortunately, Breaking In is extremely rooted in the conventions of its genre with the slight alteration to the premise. There’s not much within Breaking In beyond its surface level twist on a well-worn genre that makes it stand out.
Shaun Russell (Union) has just lost her father in an accident. Unbeknownst to her, though, Isaac Russell (Damien Leake) was just the victim of a murder, struck down by a car while on his morning jog. Though estranged from her father, Shaun takes her two children Glover (Seth Carr) and Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) to her father’s secluded home with the intention of settling his estate and selling the home. Once again, though, Shaun is unaware that there are more nefarious actions happening around her, as the house has already been invaded by a quartet of criminals led by Eddie (Billy Burke). While Shaun was outside, the bad men take the children hostage and utilize the home’s massive security system to lock the worried mother out of the home. Now the only to save herself and her children is by Breaking In.
I’d categorize Breaking In as a disappointment because it seems like it really had the ability to be something more than a slight variation on a tired genre. That’s not to say that the film is an unmitigated disaster or anything. It’s more to say that it could’ve been more than simply basic. McTeigue brings a steady journeyman’s direction to the film. It’s the kind of sturdy direction that’s never showy or flashy but still holds together the basic elements of the film. The script by Ryan Engle from a story by Jaime Primak Sullivan, however, is so lacking in character depth or originality that it’s entirely up to the cast and the director to inject Breaking In with all of its life. Credit to Gabrielle Union who really brings her A-game as the desperate mother, but the script is too overwrought with clichés and conventions that neither the lead actress and producer nor the veteran director can elevate the material beyond a serviceable, predictable thriller.
The Blu-ray for Breaking In features two cuts of the movie – the theatrical cut and the unrated extended cut. (Disclaimer: I only watched the theatrical cut.) Other special features on the Blu-ray include audio commentary with director McTeigue and screenwriter Ryan Engel, a number of featurettes on the making of the film and its characters, as well as a plethora of deleted and extended scenes, including an alternate opening scene to the film. All in all, it’s a pretty robust set of features considering most new releases on Blu-ray are lucky to get a featurette or two with maybe a couple of deleted scenes at best.
Breaking In a B-movie that more or less achieves what it sets out to. However, that streak of predictability that runs through James McTeigue’s thriller undermines it as it’s too often rooted in the conventions of its genre. There aren’t enough surprises in Breaking In to make it anything more than a passable B-movie. It’s just frustrating because it’s just a few twists and turns away from being a more satisfying pulp adventure.