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Breaking In review – a thriller that unintentionally writes itself into a thrill-less corner

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Gabrielle Union stars in Breaking In, the latest cinematic offering in the line of home invasion thrillers, as Shaun Russell: a mother desperately trying to save her children.

After the sudden death of her father, Shaun and her two children, Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and Glover (Seth Carr), make their way to her childhood home in Lake Constance to prepare it for sale. Over the course of the evening, they find they have more to deal with than just real estate meetings, when a group of criminals target the house.

Union is utterly compelling in her role as Shaun. It’s refreshing to see a woman take charge in a home invasion film, a la Hush (2016), and she does so with no special training or amazing secret abilites; just the grit and determination of a protective mother making damned sure that her children don’t get hurt. Alexus and Carr give good performances as Jasmine and Glover, despite not having much to work with.

Breaking In’s downfall is its overly clichéd, poorly constructed script, which leaves very little room for actual thrill.

One of the biggest issues with modern home invasion films is finding a convincing way to avoid the fact that everyone has a mobile phone nowadays. Jasmine spends the first ten minutes of the film inseparable from hers, so the lacklustre way the film removes her from it is hardly believable; likewise, Shaun makes an odd decision regarding her phone. These very minor points fall out of line with any normal treatment of a mobile phone making the set-up mildly ridiculous in a modern context. And from this convoluted set-up grows an equally convoluted film.

The gang of criminals that target the Russells have walked straight out of a textbook on clichéd criminal groups: there’s the bumbling, novice criminal in way over his head (Levi Meaden); the tech guy (Mark Furze); the unhinged psychopath who is clearly going to be nothing but trouble (Richard Cabral); all led by the one with an intellect that is wildly superior to the rest (Billy Burke).

Burke’s portrayal of the group’s leader is enjoyable enough, but the interaction between the four of them is somewhat forced and unnatural, which pushes the boundaries of “mismatched group who have no business even knowing each other, let alone working together” so far that their connection strays into implausible. This mixed with the completely unnecessary decisions they make throughout the film creates a huge disconnect between the story and the audience. Union’s performance goes some way in bridging this, but there is only so much convincing acting can do to legitimise an unconvincing script.

The trailer presents a very interesting twist on a normal home invasion thriller by placing the criminals in the house and giving Shaun the job of figuring how to get back in despite the heavily advanced security system in place. But the potential of this idea is very quickly squandered, leaving the film flopping about in a limbo of indecisiveness.

Breaking In is a lovely, shining moment for Union; and very exciting development for Alexus and Carr, but unfortunately ends up as just another, overall unoriginal, average thriller.

Breaking In is in cinemas now.

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