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Breaking [Bad]

It’s difficult to take anything out of Breaking In. There’s subtext in the title, subtext in the story, and subtext in the casting. Then the script rips the preceding to pieces.

Take Gabrielle Union, effective and believable as a mother fighting back against home invaders. The name Breaking In slyly refers to a black woman tearing through an action movie boundary. Then, casting, with three white men as her primary challengers, greedy archetypes seeking to keep Union out of the house in a small twist on the formula. With her kids inside and Union outside, she fights to move past the white males who stand in their way. The racial optics do not commit to subtly.

Unfortunately, there’s a threadbare, even boring narrative at play. Potentially tantalizing details go ignored. Breaking In appears to concern post-financial crisis anxieties – albeit six or seven years too late – as a radio broadcaster, over the opening credits, discusses criminal actions against Wall Street types. Soon, that’s forgotten. Men break into the house, hunting for a safe full of cash, and Union is defending her property.

Tension wanders; the editing never tight enough, the thin story never gripping

Breaking In is all in on hokey ideas, delivering a high-tech security system and drone battles. Windows cover themselves in bulletproof polymer. The intent is for this modern smart home to be a character, yet the lack of establishment never delivers a viable floorplan for the audience. It’s a mass of rooms, some appearing at random to suit the script.

Billy Burke gives his all as a monotone, calm villain. Yet, for his monstrous posturing, Breaking In doesn’t offer him much to do other than wander or stare blankly at the camera. That leaves Breaking In rudimentary and flat. Tension wanders; the editing never tight enough, the thin story never gripping. At a paltry 80 minutes, Breaking In still finds a way to turn boring and repetitious.

There’s resemblance to David Fincher’s Panic Room in terms of structure. Take the room away, replace it with the exterior of the house, and Breaking In draws comparison. It’s tragic Breaking In falls apart, both from starring Union in a strikingly powerful role and the possibility of a smart Get Out-like flip on the usual structure. Instead, that all burns away the longer Breaking In expects the audience to endure the tripe.


Problems on the horizon – Breaking In suffers from a multitude of visual problems the further it goes. What begins as a perky, sun drenched, warm offering loses that spark as night falls.

Either digital cinematography or the disc’s compression cause the looming problems. While a touch of banding is evident early on, that becomes a distracting mess once the lights go out. Further, the mass of noise that swarms the screen begins to smear, adding another impediment.

Well managed black levels avoid crush concerns, but fail to reach enough depth to offset the noise. Shadows buzz with unwanted activity. During an intentional power outage, red flood lights pop on. This is not the disc to handle scenes soaked in reds. Artifacts swarm and imagery softens.

In close, facial detail does present itself. Texture is a saving element. When the camera pulls back though, other issues drop in. An exterior of the house (with clearly artificial digital trees placed around the grounds) reveals aliasing along the roof line. Breaking In doesn’t get much right.


A paltry DTS-HD mix remains sedate, low in dynamic range and channel separation. Despite the possibility of using small sounds to accentuate movement, Breaking In relies more on silence during the runtime. Gunshots register plainly without much thrust. Fights stick to the center, with minimal movement. Even then, any spread seems out of spite.

At best, the surrounds find use when the in-home speaker system is utilized. All of the channels light up to simulate an expensive audio installation. That’s fun, but brief.


Director James McTeigue and scriptwriter Ryan Engle pair up to handle commentary work. They optionally chat over four deleted scenes (14:28 total) and a separate alternate opening. Four featurettes run 16-minutes total, with little in the way of depth. The one on stunts, A Lesson in Kicking Ass, offers some decent behind-the-scenes footage, but that too is limited.

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Gabrielle Union provides a fine power fantasy against a devilish Billy Burke, but Breaking In collapses under its own boredom.

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