Breaking In

My wife offered me some good advice as we were driving to the screening of Breaking In. She said, “I don’t want to hear you complain about all the things that are so unrealistic.”

Now, my wife has offered me lots and lots of advice, and as she’ll attest, I often dismiss it. For some reason, this sounded like sound advice. I took it, and because of that…I had more fun with this movie than I thought I would. Sure, the implausibilities are there. The 3rd act is utterly ridiculous, but at 90 minutes, it was the perfect length and pacing to keep you interested and on the edge of your seat. I’m not sure it’s the right film to bring most mothers to on Mother’s Day. This film isn’t about a mom that wants to sip mimosas and go to brunch at the Hotel Del. This is about a mom that’s sipping wine, ordering pizza, trying to deal with her criminal father’s recent passing and the selling of his mansion, and…killing the four thugs that have kidnapped her two kids and locked her out of said mansion.

Director James McTeigue gave us the terrific V for Vendetta, but also Ninja Assassin. Luckily for him, he has Gabrielle Union on board. That makes this home-invasion thriller a bit of fun, because we can buy her being a kick-ass mom, although my wife complained on the way home that they gave us no backstory on how she was such a good fighter. She said, “Not even one scene of her kickboxing at a gym in at the start of the movie.”

I was happy they didn’t do that. A scene like that started off the latest Tomb Raider film, and I was mocking it, saying, “Okay, okay, we get it. She’s tough as nails. Let’s move on.”

It also didn’t bother me that they never told us why Shaun Russell (Union) was estranged from her father. But the fact that he was a shady character (as we get from her phone conversation with her husband), was enough.

It’s not just Gabrielle Union that makes the movie watchable, but the kids. Ajiona Alexus plays teen daughter Jasmine, who is listening to the playlist her boyfriend made her. Her younger brother Glover is played by Seth Carr. He’s as smart as a whip, cute, and has good lines about his sister listening to all those “sex songs.” It’s also fun to see that he knows more about the security system and electronics than his mom.

The criminals are a lot less interesting. They’re led by Eddie (Billy Burke of Twilight). He’s one of those cliche movie bad guys that says stuff to his underlings like “Just do what I say” and “When I found you, you were doing 3 to 5 years in country, so shut up and find the safe!”

As usual in these types of movies, there’s turmoil among the thieves. The one that looks like Billy Idol, feels bad they’re scaring the kids. The Latino guy that looks like a wacked out John Turturro covered in tattoos, is the scary guy that wants to kill all the witnesses.

Of course the movie will have some predictable moments. I mean…she was ordering pizza before she knew her house was invaded. Don’t we think at some point, some helpless, pimply faced pizza boy is going to show up at the wrong time?

What bothers me more than the handful of tropes are the scenes where the electrical wires are all cut, yet the burglar alarms and things like that, can still be activated; or the fact that the head criminal continuously says they only have an hour and half (the run time of the film) to find the safe and open it, before the security company will call the police because the alarm isn’t activated. Yet they saunter around the house at a slow pace, acting menacing and not seemingly pressed for time.

But, two other things made the movie more enjoyable for me. Hearing the Flamingos’ song “I Only Have Eyes For You,” a few different times. It’s one of the best ballads in music history. And, the fact that a woman that looked like an older Octavia Spencer sat down next to my wife. She spent a lot of time…uh…talking to the screen. The first time was when the mom tells her teen daughter, “Don’t worry about me. I’m the mom. It’s my job to worry about you.” With that, the woman next to us shouted “Amen!”

Other times she’d yell things like, “You got the gun now, just shoot him already!!!”

Usually outbursts like that are annoying, but I was enjoying the fact that she was enjoying herself so much.

All of that doesn’t mean this is a great movie, but it’s a serviceable thriller. If you saw the commercials for it and didn’t think it looked utterly ridiculous, you’ll probably enjoy your hour and a half watching it.

2 ½ stars out of 5.