Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Breaking In

The 90's were a great time to come of age as a film fan. Video shops on every corner and all of them packed to the gills with thrillers. Home invasion thrillers were especially popular in the 90's. Single White Female, Panic Room (edit, I've been informed this isn't half as old as I thought it was, cheers Moomin), The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Unlawful Entry and Pacific Heights were five of the biggies. Films about being under threat in the place you feel the safest, your own gaff, there's not much scarier. It's a genre ripe for revisiting 25 years later. A few years back we had The Guest (which rocked) and now this week we have Breaking In.

Shaun (Gabrielle Union) has just lost her estranged father in a rather brutal manner. The time has come to settle his estate so with her two children, Jasmine and Glover, she heads to his house to sort things out. The level of security she finds there intrigues and disturbs her. Then some unexpected visitors make her realise why the house is so protected.

There isn't much here you haven't seen before and the story takes liberally from other earlier films. The set up is hackneyed and creaky, the bad guys are poorly drawn caricatures and if you can't see the ending coming you've never seen a film before but jaysus, somehow, against the odds it all adds up to a pretty enjoyable whole. Mostly this is down to a very committed performance by Gabrielle Union as a fiercely protective mammy who has no issue snapping back when her kids are threatened. Plus seeing scumbags getting battered and punctured with all manner of implements is something that just never gets old. Like horror films, one thing home invasion films do well is flipping our gender expectations. It's great when the hero is a women and it's always satisfying seeing baddies looking surprised when the woman they assumed would be a pushover turns out to be anything but. Here Union joins the ranks of Annabella Sciorra, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffiths and Maika Monroe and does as well as any of them.

A cracking lead performance can't gloss over everything though. As mentioned earlier it's all very old hat and the story stumbles from one cliche to another in places with some of the characters seemingly created on the back of a match box with a crayon. The bad guys may as well be wearing tops that say "first to die", "bad guy with a conscience" and "evil prick". Evil prick is played by Richard Cabral. Cabral is an interesting actor but one with a look that seemingly dooms him to this type of role in films. In the last few years he's played nuanced roles in TV's American Crime. In those he showed a pretty astonishing range and it annoys me that the role he plays in this film will most likely be the bread and butter of his career.

This month has been an unusually strong month for female lead films. I Feel Pretty,  The Leisure Seeker, Tully and Life Of The Party have preceded this. IFP & LOTP were both saved by the strength of the lead performance and the same is true of this. Gabrielle Union very believable in the part. When the action kicks off she feels scrappy and brutal and real while still feeling maternal. She's a fine actress with a great screen presence who has been hovering around the edges of stardom for a long time. Early roles in teen films like Bring It On had her seemingly ready to take off and then a fun showing in Bad Boys 2 made it look like she had but then sadly her career kinda fizzled out. Hopefully this will put her back on track. Films with black women front and centre are rare and it's a massive pity. Diversity on our screens is always welcome and it's great to see this getting a wide release in Ireland.

Silliness abounds and there's very little here to surprise you but a powerful lead performance make this worth a watch.

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