Breaking In: They broke into the wrong house

Review: It’s a neat, effective entertainment with a a delicious response to the lead burglar’s assertion that the heroine is ‘only a woman’

Breaking In
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Director: James McTeigue
Cert: 15A
Genre: Action
Starring: Gabrielle Union, Seth Carr, Ajiona Alexus, Christa Miller, Jason George, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Levi Meaden
Running Time: 1 hr 28 mins

In Miguel Ángel Vivas's 2010 thriller Kidnapped, the intruders are listed simply as Head Thief, Young Thief, and Strong Thief. Breaking In's triumvirate (a fourth thief is picked off from the herd early in the exciting proceedings) could easily be billed as Head Thief, Wimp Thief, and Rapey Mexican Thief.

It’s a disappointing trope to find in a film in which an African-American mom must pitch her wits and various improvised weapons in order to save her two children from murderous marauders.  Does she get to say: “You broke into the wrong house”? You bet she does.

V for Vendetta director James McTeigue speedily establishes the set-up. Following the death of her estranged father, Shaun Russell (the always charismatic Gabrielle Union) takes her two children, Glover (Carr) and Jasmine (Alexus), to the vast, secluded family estate.

Shaun is hoping to sell the property and settle her father’s affairs. Glover son stumbles on his late grandfather’s elaborate security system, which, at the touch of a button, turns the entire house into an outsized, bullet-proof panic room.

It turns out the old man, who was involved in some shady, unspecified business, had good reason to be cautious. Four goons (including Twilight's Billy Burke, American Crime's Richard Cabral, and Pacfic Rim: Uprising's Levi Meaden) descend upon the property. A scuffle ensues, Shaun is locked out of the house while her children remain inside, and then there were three goons.

The home invasion thriller is a versatile, durable subgenre that can go high (as in the Brechtian kicks of Michael Haneke's Funny Games) or low (as in Sergio Martino's eye-poppingly lurid Torso) or completely nuts (as in Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo's Inside, in which Beatrice Dalle hopes to cut out an in-utero baby one day before the mother's due date).

Breaking In isn't exactly breaking the mould. It's never as nerve-testing as High Tension (2003), or as gloriously silly as watching Taraji P Henson fend off Idris Elba in No Good Deed (2014).

But it’s a neat, effective entertainment with a a delicious response to the lead burglar’s assertion that the heroine is “only a woman”.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic