'Breaking In' Review: Gabrielle Union Is Trapped In a House – and One God-Awful Movie

Neither the star nor the audience deserves a Mom-in-peril–spolitation thriller this horrible and inept

'Breaking In' traps Gabrielle Union in a house with thugs – and an awful thriller that's likely to break viewers' spirits. Read Peter Travers' review. Credit: Paul Sarkis

Just in time for Mother's Day, Breaking In gifts moms everywhere with a thrill-free, home-invasion thriller about a mom (Gabrielle Union) who'll stop at nothing to keep four bad guys from killing her two kids. That's the plot, folks. It never goes any deeper than that, or gets any less predictable. Some have labeled this "Taken for ladies." If only. The listless, leaden acting, writing and direction in this breathtakingly stupid bomb-ola defies audiences to stay conscious through its drag-ass 88 minutes.

Shaun Russell (Union) and her two children – teenage Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and kid brother Glover (Seth Carr) – are taking a trip to Wisconsin. It turns out that Shaun’s father, who dies in the opening scene, was a master criminal who built this isolated fortress in the Badger State to protect his ill-gotten gains with every high-tech device imaginable. She hasn’t seen the bum since childhood, but figures the family mansion should pull a good price on the real-estate market. Her macho husband Justin (Jason George) stays home, mostly because screenwriter Ryan Engle needs to maintain his one-woman-against-the-world scenario. (To call Engle's script contrived would be an insult to hacks everywhere. Why takes your kids to a felon's hideout?) And get this: The home invaders have cut power to the security system, which only gives them 90 minutes to get the money and get out. Huh? Wouldn't a loss of power trigger a police warning, like, immediately? You don't ask those questions of Breaking In, not if you want to maintain your sanity.

Director James McTeigue, 13 years out from his one good film (V for Vendetta), uses every trick in the Directing 101 handbook to distract us from idiocy of what we’re seeing. Nothing works. Wait, we take that back: Union (Think Like a Man) almost makes it fun to watch Shaun, who seems to have been trained as a ninja while growing up. The dudes are no match for this dynamo. She ties up and gags the gang's tech genius, Sam (Levi Meaden), and works on the sympathies of Peter (Mark Furze), the ex-con with the blonde dye job who doesn't believe in killing kids. Their cohort, Duncan (Richard Cabral), is a straight-up psycho with no such scruples. Eddie, the leader of this man pack, is played by Billy Burke with a calm he means to be menacing but mostly it looks like he's dozing, along with the rest of us.

It's Eddie who provides exposition, in a misguided attempt by the filmmakers to humanize the demons. To persuade Peter to murder innocents, the boss points out there will be "no more 12-hour work days" and no more getting on your knees in a prison shower stall. [Cue "aww."] His lackey, meanwhile, is helpful in stating the obvious – "Moms don't run, not when their babies are trapped in the nest" – and he's not above complimenting Shaun on her fighting skills: "Very impressive for a woman alone, trapped by strangers." We suspect Eddie knows he's trapped in a lousy movie and can't wait to break out. Buy a ticket to this dull, dimwitted con job and you'll know the feeling