There’s this nagging sense that director James McTeigue’s Breaking In is trespassing into movie theaters. At the beginning of a summer movie season that promises to be full of spectacular fireworks and exciting indie darlings, here comes a film so utterly incompetent that it should be recalled for quality control from your local Redbox. The home invasion genre is played out but it’s still a shame that the film takes every opportunity to mess up or cop out, rather than ignite the narrative with a fresh perspective.
Problems start early on as Shaun (Gabrielle Union) and her two kids arrive at the heavily fortified house of her estranged father. We’re instantly treated to some of the stiffest dialogue and performances on this side of The Room. It’s a horrific set up that somehow only teases the garbage to come when a group of burglars break into the house and take the kids hostage.
This is a group of the four least intimidating burglars in movie history. We have the gruff long-haired leader, Moby and Gerard Way look alikes and a stereotypical character who kills people with brutal off-screen PG-13 violence. The character dialogue ranges from laughable attempts at stylization (“She hasn’t left the nest with her chicks still in it,”) to absurdly dialed down moments of frenzy (“this is really freaking serious,”).
Meanwhile, Union’s character is an absolute bore. We’ve seen her deliver in the past but she doesn’t sell a single moment here. Instead of making us buy in to her sheer horror that triggers instinctive action, her performance rarely moves past ‘mildly perturbed.’ McTeigue and screenwriter Ryan Engle never allows her to express full,unadulterated human emotion. An actress who was allowed to really cut loose in this role could’ve really made something of it. We could’ve had the deft combination of venerability and fury that male action stars like Liam Neeson and Charles Bronson were allowed to give us. Even as we continue on this long overdue age of female action stars, directors still have no idea how to properly portray them.
McTeigue does one of the worst directing hack jobs inflicted upon a wide release in some time. His camera hobbles around as he clumsily attempts to show us the geometry of the house but we never get a feel for all the nooks and crannies of it. It feels like a cheep movie set, not a heavily fortified war-zone. Every single actor’s performance is atrocious, which falls on his shoulders and the action sequences completely lack any feeling of danger or consequence. He’s so committed to nabbing his precious PG-13 rating that the editing on any fight scene cuts every half second and any kills numb and bloodless. He even recycles the same Looney Toons “oops, I slipped and hit my head on a rock,” bit twice because it doesn’t show any blood.
A spectacular waste of an inventive and potentially very powerful premise, the film never allows itself to cut loose and give us something raw. What a waste of Union, who has been a good soldier in crap movies for a long time, obviously deserving a better opportunity than this to show us what she’s made of. Ranking as one of the worst home invasion movies in recent memory, take heed and save your money.