Breaking In (2 stars)

Breaking In

Gabrielle Union makes a noble heroine in an otherwise lacklustre home invasion thriller

A quartet of ne'er-do-wells make the mother of all mistakes in this unambitious thriller from James McTeigue (V for Vendetta), which brings nothing new to a home invasion tradition that stretches from Oscar-nominee Wait Until Dark to the slapstick of Home Alone and unbridled terror of The Purge. We're in Panic Room territory here as a woman fights back against thieves who take her children hostage.

Gabrielle Union is Shaun Russell, the estranged daughter of a disgraced tycoon (Damien Leake), who's killed at the outset. Her father's fortress-like Wisconsin vacation home is the target of the aforementioned crooks, led by Billy Burke's Eddie, who have been reliably informed that $4million is stashed in the safe.

A conflicted Shaun is arranging the sale of the property and happens to be visiting with her love-struck teenage daughter Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and younger, tech-savvy son Glover (Seth Carr) when the gang strike. We're told that, once the phone-lines have been cut, it will take the security firm 90-minutes to call the police, giving the film the opportunity to play out in close to real-time.

Lead roles for women of colour are very welcome indeed and it's a decent-enough part for Union, whose transformation into an SAS-style commando is satisfying to watch. Her ninja-like abilities might not be supported by anything in her back-story but motherhood is a powerful motivator and Shaun proves wily, physically capable and able to summon the steel to turn the tables on her attackers.

Regretfully, any potential for suspense is given a swift heave-ho as the villains reveal both themselves and their motive almost immediately. Moreover, they are a wholly anonymous bunch beyond their stock, sometimes cringing character types; playing the brains of the operation, Burke delivers his lines with nothing short of resignation, while Richard Cabral is toe-curlingly OTT as wild card Duncan.

When it's not spouting straight-up clichés, Ryan Engle's screenplay has a tendency to spell things out ('You are a woman alone at the mercy of strangers. Your greatest weakness is trapped here in the house with us,' Shaun is told). Union gives us a heroine we can get behind, but the lack of anything resembling an original idea ultimately tries the patience. The result? As Shaun risks life and limb in pursuit of her kids, you may find yourself hurrying her along for all the wrong reasons.

General release from Fri 11 May.

Breaking In

  • 2 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 1h 28min
  • 15
  • Directed by: James McTeigue
  • Cast: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral
  • UK release: 11 May 2018

Shaun (Union) is the estranged daughter of a disgraced tycoon who’s living in his fortress-like vacation home when it’s broken into by crooks who make the mistake of taking her daughter (Alexus) hostage. Union has a satisfying transformation into an SAS-style commando mom, but the villains are anonymous and the screenplay…