BREAKING IN, the latest film from director James McTeigue (V for Vendetta), finds a mother facing her worst fears during a home invasion. The film stars Gabrielle Union (Bad Boys II), Billy Burke (Twilight), Richard Cabral (End of Watch), Ajiona Alexus (Acrimony), Levi Meaden (The Killing), and Seth Carr (Black Panther).
The film centers around the Russell family, specifically that of Shaun (Union) and her two kids, as they returns to her childhood home after the death of her father/ Her father, who we have come to learn was extremely wealthy, owns a secluded house in the countryside that was about as high-tech as they come. While there to get the house ready to sell, four men break in to steal money from a hidden safe. After narrowly escaping from the clutches of one of the men, it’s up to Shaun to break back into her home to do whatever it takes to save her children.
Going into this film I was pretty neutral, figuring it would be your typical run-of-the-mill home invasion movie. However, I found myself really enjoying everything that was taking place, especially the interaction between Shaun and Eddie (Burke). They danced a delicate dance between victim and captor and were able to play off of each other and adapt to the never ending changes and challenges that came their way. I also enjoyed the brother / sister relationship between Jasmine (Alexus) and Glover (Carr). It felt genuine and I found myself cheering them on throughout the film. My only critique with the acting had to do more with Eddie’s henchman as they seemed to flounder under the weight and talent of both Union and Burke. However, the ending did redeem one of those actors for me so it wasn’t a complete loss.
As for the story, I liked the idea of breaking back into one’s house as opposed to breaking out. With that said, I think the strength of BREAKING IN comes from the female empowerment angle that was used. We are presented with a fierce, woman of color, who will stop at nothing to retrieve her kids and no man is going to stop her or save her. The film even goes so far as to have Eddie acknowledge that woman or not, he’s up against a challenge. At no point do you ever feel like Shaun is a damsel in distress. Sure, she’s getting her ass handed to her, and at times it’s pretty brutal, but it’s also apparent that she has a strength within her to survive. It would have been easy for writer Ryan Engle to turn this film around and have a man save the day at the 11th hour but that isn’t want BREAKING IN is about. It’s about the unstoppable strength that women, and mothers, have for not only themselves, but their family.
When it comes to PG-13 horror and/or thrillers, viewers have come to expect a watered down version of what an R rating would have given them. However, with films like A QUIET PLACE, which is rated PG-13, it has started breaking down that wall. BREAKING IN isn’t filled with gory scenes of violence and carnage but there are moments where it’s hard to watch the brutality of what Gabrielle Union’s character faces. The film doesn’t shy away from the punches and kicks that are thrown nor does it pull away at the last second when the violence begins to unfold. The only time I felt the PG-13 rating hindered the film was when Eddie, in a fit of anger, says frick instead of fuck. It seemed so forced and unnatural that it threw me off – and I wasn’t the only one, as the theater patrons giggled at how ridiculous it sounded.
All that being said, I was genuinely surprised with how much I enjoyed BREAKING IN. I had a blast watching it and the other viewers were just as enthusiastic as I was. There was even a moment when we were all yelling “PULL THE TRIGGER” at the screen, followed by a round of applause (don’t worry I’m not giving anything away). Though I felt that some of the acting could have been a little bit better, it didn’t deter me from the overall viewing experience. I hope we get more movies like that, that showcase strong women, especially women of color, not backing down and not surrendering just because a guy says so. Make sure you pick up BREAKING IN, especially the unrated director’s cut (so you don’t have to worry about “frick” replacing “fuck”) as it is now available to own on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital!