Gabrielle Union stars in the predictable-but-exciting home invasion thriller Breaking In, which pits one determined mom against four burglars holding her kids hostage. With an efficient and lean approach, this film presents some interesting ideas for the genre but ultimately plays it too safe. Universal Pictures gives the Blu-ray release a fantastic HD presentation and a nice selection of bonus features. Breaking In may not break the mold but it’s still an engaging thrill ride. Watch it with your Momma, but Give It A Rent.
“She’s in the house.”
As a fan of thrillers, I’m always on the lookout for something different and unusual. However, as a parent, I avoid any “family in danger” films in which my reaction could be yelling at the screen or sobbing uncontrollably. Seeing the trailer for James McTeigue’s home invasion thriller Breaking In both halves of my brain activated knowing this would be one worth checking out that wouldn’t require extra tissues. Featuring a solid lead performance from Gabrielle Union, Breaking In has all the makings of a lean thriller but fails to escape predictability and repetition.
Mother of two Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union) is taking her daughter Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and son Glover (Seth Carr) to her estranged father’s secluded estate after he recently passed away. Once inside, nothing seems right to Shaun. From used coffee cups on the counter to security system errors, the house feels off. The kids brush it off, hoping for a strong cell signal and a cool bedroom to crash for the night. Shaun struggles with seeing her childhood home after years of dealing with her father’s white collar crimes impacting her life. While outside on the phone, her kids are suddenly grabbed inside the house by four robbers looking for a hidden safe with $4 million in cash. Shaun fights off one thug before realizing her kids are locked inside the secure house at the hands of a madman. The thugs have 90 minutes before the police arrive due to a cut phone line triggering an emergency response. From here, Breaking In earns its name with one determined mother hell-bent on rescuing her kids no matter the cost.
From the start the stakes are clear in director James McTeigue’s film: Save the kids. Add the twist that their mother is locked out of the house and you’ve got a tense setup. Unfortunately, the follow-through is clunky and often misguided, resulting in frequent repetition of plot devices. Shaun is painted as an everyday mom thrust into this horrifying scenario in a sort of John McClane-ish role. Raised on this lavish estate, you’re poised to think of her as posh and clearly unable to hogtie a bloodied goon or brawl with a scrawny weirdo from county lock-up. As the hits roll in for Shaun, the plot to save the kids becomes convoluted and as my wife would put it:
“Why is she doing that?!”
Gabrielle Union is well-cast as the mom on a mission. Walking a fine line between vulnerable parent and desperate agitator, her performance is naturalistic even if the dialogue isn’t. I’ll give her extra credit for handling cocky lines like “you don’t know what I’m capable of,” which will inevitably get a nod of approval from every mom watching the film. It’s unfortunate that we never learn much about Shaun’s past because we are frequently reminded she is being underestimated. I’m not looking for a backstory involving some SEAL training, but perhaps something to build on for this character. The supporting cast of thugs all do a passable job with what they’re given, which isn’t much beyond the typical heist character mix. Our cool-headed villain, Eddie (Billy Burke), probably reads solid on paper but the performance is a bit wooden and lacks any engagement with the audience. Think of Hans Gruber from Die Hard but with a migraine and his taxes due tomorrow.
Sadly, Breaking In isn’t the home invasion thrill ride it wants to be. It has all the makings for a great film: known action director, solid lead actress, and a clever premise that connects with audiences. Considering the box office returns it was able to reach many audiences effectively. However, where it falls flat is in creating character depth and raising the stakes beyond predictable limits. The Unrated Director’s Cut takes a few risks beyond the PG-13 Theatrical Cut but an extra minute of film isn’t quite enough to make a bold statement overall. However, it works well for a by-the-numbers studio thriller that’ll please most audiences needing some mom-revenge action.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Universal Pictures brings Breaking In to Blu-ray as a two-disc Blu-ray Combo Pack with a flyer supplying a code for a Movies Anywhere Digital Copy. The Region A BD50 Blu-ray disc sits opposite the DVD Copy of the film in a standard dual disc keepcase with slipcover. The disc loads to the Universal logo before presenting 5 skippable trailers before landing on the static Main Menu screen with typical navigation options.
Breaking In is presented in 1080p with an Anamorphic 2.39:1 aspect ratio. From the start the transfer is flush with vivid color, detail, and depth. Fine details are staggering from the shimmering watches in Isaac’s apartment to the intricate tattoos on Duncan’s arms as he prowls around the darkened house washed in the glow of red security lights. Skin tones are even through the feature even during the outdoor nighttime sequences. Black levels hold solid with excellent depth even in shadow. It’s unfortunate that the house in the film wasn’t provided with a more dynamic color palette to allow this pleasing transfer shine a bit more. For a film with so many outdoor scenes at night or in darkened interiors Breaking In handles the presentation effortlessly with no noise or loss of detail. More small to mid level films should look this good on Blu-ray.
Supplied with only a DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix, Breaking In rarely opens the throttle to engage us in the soundfield, yet maintains an adequate-but-well-crafted sound mix throughout the feature. Dialogue is clear and clean but often a bit too soft for my liking. The track offers a clean low-end response to the tense scoring above it. Surround elements are presented clearly but are rarely used to heighten the DTS experience above average. Effects are placed within the texture gingerly giving the run-and-gun visual style of the film a complementary sound mix to keep the naturalistic element of the film’s momentum intact. A good audio experience that can’t hold a candle to the image quality presented on this Blu-ray disc.
Part of the intrigue of Breaking In comes in the “reverse Panic Room” twist placed at the film’s onset. Combined with a mom-revenge angle, I was hooked. Gabrielle Union turns in a great performance in an otherwise lackluster film. Universal Pictures’ Blu-ray arrives with an outstanding HD presentation, a respectable DTS audio mix, and a few bonus features to explore. Breaking In may not break the mold but it’s still an engaging thrill ride. Watch it with your momma and Give It A Rent.