Breaking In

 

            This is one of those house robbery movies where you know the good guys will win and the bad guys will lose.  Knowing how it's going to end, the enjoyment has to be in the getting there.  And while “Breaking In” doesn't shock or surprise, it does maintain the tension.

            The first sequence we see is actually the prequel:  an obviously wealthy older man gets run over while jogging, and it's no accident.  The next scene is his daughter, Shaun (Gabrielle Union) driving her two kids to her now-deceased Dad's “place in the country.”  The fact that they've never been there speaks volumes.  The teenage daughter and the prepubescent son obviously weren't close to the granddad (and grandmom is long since deceased).  Turns out he led a somewhat shady life, and Shaun moved out as soon as possible and had minimal contact afterwards.  So the kids are introduced to this lovely home with all the latest amenities---including a gate with intercom, an elaborate security system with cameras all over, and....a drone?

            First the kids are kidnapped and locked in a bedroom, while Shaun is outside on the patio.  There are four robbers, and one pursues Shaun outside, where somewhere in the woods he manages to fall and hit his head on a rock.  One down, three to go.

            We find out that the men are all ex-cons, who heard that the old man kept money in a safe.  They thought they would be breaking in to an empty house.  And yes, there is some dissension among the thieves about how violent they need to be with the family, especially the children.  But Shaun is in her raging Momma Bear mode now.  They're not going to take her cubs without a fight.  And she has plenty of fight within her.

            So now there's a lot of hiding around corners (once hanging on the side of a stairwell).  People hunting each other through this cavernous house, and its wooded lot, in the dark.  There's only a brief introduction of other characters: the realtor, who shows up early and is disposed of early (to show the bad guys mean business), and the Dad, who shows up late, but isn't a factor because he's quickly dispatched (this is about a protective Momma Bear, remember).

            Veteran actor Billy Burke makes for a smooth ringleader, trying to ride herd on his bickering associates (somehow we didn't think they'd wind up dividing the spoils equally, anyway).  There are a few jump-out-with-the-volume-up moments, but mostly, it's straightforward dramatic tension.  The camera likes Gabrielle Union (a former model).  The viewers will like her, too, and root for her to save her family, because when the cavalry isn't coming, you're on your own.  And their underestimation of you is your best weapon.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association