Arts movie review

‘Breaking In’ fails to meet potential

Without suspense and laughable characters, the film fails to excite

Breaking In
Directed by James McTeigue
Screenplay by Ryan Engle
Starring Gabrielle Union, Levi Meaden, Richard Cabral, Billy Burke
Rated PG-13
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Although movies about break-ins are a played-out theme, I enjoy them because of the action and the protagonist’s emotional struggle throughout the course of the plot. This film in fact impressed me right away in the first scene. The lack of dialogue, the pulsing music, and the arresting murder of an unknown man create suspense left me curious about what was to come in the following scenes. Unfortunately, it went downhill from there.

The majority of the plot takes place in an estate in rural Wisconsin, which we learn is the property of the man murdered in the first scene. The protagonist, Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union) is an Illinois mother of three taking her family there to manage her recently-deceased father’s property. While the isolated, technologically advanced home surrounded by forest is visually impressive, the character development is not. The criminals who come in to rob the Russell family’s millions of dollars are just not that intimidating. Shaun outsmarts them on multiple occasions, such that I never needed to worry about her, leaving me wanting for more struggle. While I got to see some depth from Sam (Levi Meaden), who is having second doubts about his participation, Duncan (Richard Cabral) remains a caricature of a Mexican man. Portrayed as violent and dim-witted, Duncan does provide some of that necessary intimidation, but it is hard to take him seriously. Worst of all, the head of the operation, Eddie (Billy Burke), has such an unconvincing tough-guy attitude that at one point I wondered whether this movie was meant to be satirical. The group seemed to be struggling more than Shaun did, which the audience knew and laughed at.

The one redeeming quality is Union’s portrayal as Shaun. Though the conflict between her and the antagonists is not that suspenseful, her performance is raw and feels authentic. I especially liked how near the beginning, she refuses to accept being kidnapped and fights one of the criminals. Her struggle to defend her family also symbolizes the larger struggle for women to be taken seriously in society, which is implied when Eddie specifically points out that Shaun is a helpless woman who must surrender for her benefit. Though this film is not exactly the thriller I was hoping for, I admire the theme it presents. Having said that, if one wanted to watch a film about women’s empowerment, this title does not do it justice.