Film Review: Breaking In

In this slickly entertaining thriller, a mom pulls out all the stops to protect her family when she and her children are trapped by thieves in a high-tech house.
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Following the death of her estranged father, Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union) takes her kids (Ajiona Alexus and Seth Carr) up to her childhood home—a spectacular and spectacularly isolated one—where she plans to start the process of taking stock and making decisions about what to do with the place. Unfortunately, they interrupt a gang of thieves, headed by the ruthless but not entirely unprincipled Eddie (Twilight's Billy Burke) and including the inevitable psycho who needs to be kept on a short leash. Eddie and company had expected a quick break-in with a big payout—the $4 million Shaun's dad kept at home—but Shaun and her family are a major spanner in the works.

The line "Moms don't run"—spoken with grudging admiration by Eddie—sums up Breaking In's plot: Shaun may be an upper-middle-class housewife, but nothing is going to keep her from going she-wolf on the behinds of anyone who threatens her cubs. There's a touch of Straw Dogs in the film's mix, and a hint of the less well-known Fight for Your Life (1977), but overall the takeaway is that screenwriter Ryan Engle knows his home-invasion thriller clichés. And that's not a terrible thing: Breaking In doesn't do anything new—and no, the idea that Shaun has to break intoher own house doesn't count; such movies regularly allow characters to escape, only to send them back in to help others—but it's skillfully done.

Breaking In keeps the pace up, the pressure on and the action fairly plausible—Shaun doesn't suddenly turn into John Rambo and she's as highly motivated as a character can be. But you have to wonder why the security service allows so much time to elapse before dispatching someone to make sure nothing's wrong—five minutes maybe, even ten, to allow time for an authorized person to call with an explanation before the cavalry is dispatched. The sooner it occurs to you that the better part of an hour and a half—while necessary to spin out the plot complications—seems an awfully long time to wait for bought-and-paid-for assistance, the sooner the spell is broken.

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