Shaun Russell (Gabrielle Union) has suffered a bereavement recently when her estranged father died while out jogging: he was hit by a car, but what she doesn't know is that it was deliberate, and the driver got out to make sure the old man was dead. Now she is travelling to her father's home, a remote mansion out in the countryside where he lived reclusively and on arrival, she and her two children, teen Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and younger Glover (Seth Carr), are warily impressed by the amount of security and high-tech all mod cons arranged around the building. Her parent was a rich one, not that he shared it with his daughter, but now she simply wishes to sell the place and move on.
Breaking In was not the most original of tales, despite an apparently underused premise where our heroine must break into a house the criminals are in rather than combat the criminals trying to enter illegally, though at heart it remained a home invasion thriller of sorts. Although many decided director James McTeigue was aping the classic action template of Die Hard, what he actually appeared to be aiming for was an update of David Fincher's Panic Room, which featured an earlier high-tech home invaded by bad guys, and similarly a mother out to protect and rescue her offspring from potentially murderous, but definitely unscrupulous, evildoers motivated by naked greed.
They were a quartet of actors hired more or less to play the heavy with few nuances, led by Billy Burke, a performer who had enjoyed a consistent career without getting near the front rank; he was perfectly fine here as the thinker of the team, working his way around the puzzles just as his adversary Shaun must do the same. Backing him were Richard Cabral doing his menacing Hispanic thing with his usual aplomb, so typecast in this sort of role that you hoped he was a genuinely nice guy in real life since he was a very convincing scumbag, Levi Meaden as the pretty boy who may have a conscience, and Mark Furze, injured early on as the man who can break into the concealed safe.
All very well, but they were not the stars, Union was, and you were never in any doubt that this was a showcase for her as if to remind us what she could do when offered the lead in a project - she was a producer here too, and would have had a hand in presenting herself as accomplished as she possibly could, from the emotional scenes to the action. Her character did get battered around a fair bit to up the tension, but mostly to demonstrate how strong a mother can be: she may get knocked down, but she gets up again, as the old song goes, therefore while the motherhood angle could have served as depth for her personality, it was more representative of a warning to all bad guys - all guys, really - not to get between a mother and her babies, lest you suffer the consequences.
Breaking In was a PG-13 rated movie in its native United States, so when things got bloody they didn't get gory, and you did feel an R rating would have allowed McTeigue to let loose on his action sequences much as Fincher had done in his previous effort. This only meant one f-bomb as far as the bad language went, so when Boyle turned to anger at a henchman and used the word "frickin'" you might be reminded of Dr. Evil rather than a solid threat, not that any of the foursome of nasties were ever going to mount much of a challenge once they had kidnapped Shaun's kids. So, yes, predictable, but not every thriller had to be a masterpiece, and there were intermittent bits of business that showed a more muscular movie could have been assembled from these components, the use of the eerie oldie "I Only Have Eyes for You" a nice touch to unsettle the baddies and lend an atmosphere to the proceedings, and a high-tech hideaway was always going to be fun up to a point. Nothing brilliant, but an acceptable time-passer with Union evidently enjoying herself in the spotlight. Music by Johnny Klimek.