Sometimes you just want to sit back and watch a brainless entertainment, a movie that delivers exactly what it promises with no fancy business getting in the way of its mission. Breaking In is one of those movies. I’m not sure it’s worth the price of a full movie ticket, but it’ll someday make for a great Sunday afternoon watch on TBS.
All the film really has is a great premise, which it executes as fast and simply as possible. Gabrielle Union brings her two children to her recently-deceased father’s secluded techno house to prepare it for purchase. The film doesn’t bother to explain this much, but her father was a criminal of some sort and the two were not on speaking terms when he died (we actually see him get murdered in the film’s surprisingly great opening).
Almost as soon as they arrive, a handful of villains jump them in an attempt to steal the four million dollars in cash stowed away somewhere inside the house. In the ensuing struggle, Union finds herself locked out while her kids are trapped inside.
The rest of the film is a curious cat and mouse game between Union and some real dummies - a wimpy dummy, a violent dummy and a smart dummy. She is unarmed, but her father apparently trained her in the ways of badassery which put the odds a bit more in her favor. On top of that, you have the house’s high tech features working for and against both sides of the equation (kind of).
The ensuing conflict is far from exemplary. Performances are uniformly not great; the whole thing takes place at night and even scenes inside the house are lit too dark; a PG-13 rating holds back the violence, most of the action features a weird reliance on cheesy slow motion, and - perhaps the film’s greatest misstep - the tech house angle is barely utilized.
Nevertheless, it is still a treat watching Gabrielle Union stalk around these idiots for 80 minutes. The film makes things too easy for her, so tension is mostly out the window. You’re basically watching someone play the movie with cheat codes on. Instead, the joy comes from the silliness within and the breakneck speed with which the movie plays out. The whole thing is off and running within twenty minutes. The film has business to conduct and is not subtle about it at all. You just know every element set up in the first act will come back to play a part later, it’s just a matter of waiting to see how.
By no means is Breaking In a good movie, but it’s a fun version of a bad one if only in its refusal to waste any of your time on illusions of grandeur. They should have just called it “How will Gabrielle Union save her kids?” because that’s literally all it is. In some viewing contexts, however, that might be enough.