Perhaps movies need a new barometer for success these days. While Breaking In was hardly a critical or audience darling, considering its financial metrics reveal a different story. On a $6mn production budget, the film made $50.9mn worldwide. Universal basically managed to recoup 8.5 times the budget of the movie. Take a Marvel entry like Thor: Ragnarok, and it only managed to cover the production budget 4.7 times. And we haven’t even discussed the marketing expenditure. The Gabrielle Union action thriller does exhibit a certain degree of success for a low-budget flick.
In addition to the financial accomplishments, Breaking In was a particularly exciting product for unintended reasons. Gabrielle Union’s Shaun Russell heads to her recently deceased father’s home with her two kids Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and Glover (Seth Carr) in tow. She’s planning to sell what appears to be a fortress of solitude with an assortment of surveillance and security systems in place to act as Big Brother. Suffice to say that her dad wasn’t squeaky clean, and his car accident wasn’t exactly an accident.
Shaun is visibly uncomfortable and concerned about the environment. The family first walks into the home while the security system beeps. Shaun notices a cup of coffee on the counter. Jasmine sees a cracked photo frame. Glover finds a surveillance drone. This doesn’t seem to be the house of a typical father.
When Shaun goes outside to order some pizza, and some fresh air, a band of criminals decides it’s the perfect opportunity to seize her kids who’re inside and seal the house, leaving her to contend with one of their own on the outside. Can she fend off this one goon and also get her kids out of the house alive?
Feels Like Home Alone
While Breaking In strives for a tone of seriousness, which it does achieve, for the most part, there’s an underlying feeling that turns the whole affair into Macaulay Culkin’s Home Alone.
To fully understand this dimension, we need to discuss the home invaders who are after something Shaun’s dad possessed. There’s the ringleader Eddie (Billy Burke), channeling his best Hans Gruber with his hair and sedate calmness. We have Sam (Levi Meaden), who’s inner fragility is evident by his bleached blonde hair and slouching shoulders (weakness, much?). We have Peter (Mark Furze), a willing dirty hand whose fighting prowess doesn’t quite match his enthusiasm for it. And finally, we have Duncan (Richard Cabral), a bloodthirsty felon who probably killed his grandma as a child when she didn’t get him the bike he wanted.
Within 10 to 15 minutes of being introduced to these characters, the common thread tying all of them together is incompetence, barring Eddie. I suppose Eddie himself could be called incompetent for putting together such a diverse group in terms of IQ and mental stability. One of them mistakes firecrackers for gunshots. One of them can’t tackle a woman who took a tumble down the woods and crashlanded on a car. And then one of them interprets “don’t kill” as “do kill.”
What has this got to do with Home Alone? Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern exuded a sense of imminent failure at every junction. We knew that Culkin’s Kevin McCallister would get the better of them at the end because it’s a family comedy after all. Eddie’s team of misfits exude this same feeling despite this being an action thriller. We feel confident that despite Shaun being outmatched and outnumbered, she’s going to get the better of them because Eddie’s A-team lacks any cohesion or chemistry. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. It’s like watching a Friday the 13th movie and figuring out which man is going to screw up first, rather than who is going to die first.
Despite channeling their best version of stupid, these guys are lethal. Pesci and Stern never got around to physically hurting Kevin, but the criminals in Breaking In won’t hesitate to shed blood, whether that’s Shaun’s family or their own.
They’ve got killer instincts, and killer instincts embedded in incompetent people can create messy scenarios for everyone involved. Shaun’s goal is to rescue her kids who are trapped inside her father’s stronghold. She needs to get through 5 felons whose disparate personalities make them a danger to her, her children, and to themselves.
The Rotten Tomatoes consensus labeling Breaking In as a “rote, disposable action thriller” is one that I can agree with. But I didn’t look at the film as an action thriller. I looked at the movie as a quasi comedy-action-horror thriller, melding Home Alone and Friday the 13th together, giving us the guaranteed satisfaction of multiple casualties. It’s not a funny movie, but it provides the inevitability inherent in those films. And unlike that horror franchise I named where the casualties are innocent, Breaking In adds felons to the victims’ list and does society a service.
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