A maternal instinct-driven thriller on Mother’s Day weekend may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Breaking In starring Gabrielle Union found an audience. The $6 million budget home invasion suspense flick opened at number-three behind Avengers: Infinity War and Life of the Party to a respectable $16.5 million estimate, according to industry reports.
Ignoring the poor reviews — it earned a 26 percent “fresh” rating on review aggregation site Rottentomatoes.com — I caught a Sunday afternoon showing with my mom, expecting, if nothing else, a campy, so-bad-it’s-good, popcorn flick. But the movie ended up being a straightforward thriller that managed to keep me and the audience on edge from start to finish.
The first scene sets the tone as we’re introduced to Shaun’s (Union) doomed father (Damien Leake), who we soon learn is in a dark and illegal business for which he is set to testify. He never makes it to trial, however, and his demise is swift and absolutely brutal. From there, the thin plot is set: Shaun, who was estranged from her father, presumably because of his criminal lifestyle, unwittingly stumbles into the dangerous path he left behind.
Do we know what kind of shady business her father is in? Not really. Is it clear what Shaun does for a living, for that matter? Nope. Is there any real character development for any of the characters? Not a bit.
Do any of these unanswered questions stop this film from being enjoyable? Not for me or the moviegoers in the theater I was in; applause broke out several times during the show, including the ending.
So what made this movie work? Gabrielle Union. She went all in. It was fun to see a woman in peril flip the script on her attackers. Yes, she was understandably terrified, but not so much that it kept her from thinking, plotting and fighting. Shaun had grit, smarts, and seemed to be able to take a punch better than any of the men in the film.
The movie also boasts sharp direction from James McTeigue, who made good use of the sprawling 25-acre estate stocked with every high-tech device you could dream of. Also, Shaun’s kids played by Ajiona Alexus and Seith Banee Carr were a delight to watch.
It would be great to see this film propel Union to greater movie fare and starring vehicles that display her range. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a fun thriller, Breaking In should hit the spot — just enjoy the ride and don’t ask a lot of questions.
Paige Elliott is the digital editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.