By Devan Coggan
May 10, 2018 at 04:00 PM EDT
Paul Sarkis/Universal
  • Movie

It’s Movie Survival 101: Don’t go into the creepy basement, don’t mess around with ouija boards, and never, never get between a mom and her kids.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Gabrielle Union stars as a mom on a mission in the thriller Breaking In. The Being Mary Jane star plays Shaun, a woman who heads to her late father’s isolated Wisconsin mansion with her two kids (Ajiona Alexus and Seth Carr). Her plan is to get it ready for the real-estate market, but apparently, dear old dad had some secrets, and he’s been hiding a safe stacked with millions of dollars in cash. (He has also outfitted his house like a fortress, complete with a top-notch security system and impenetrable walls.) A quartet of homicidal home invaders come knocking, led by Billy Burke’s villainous Eddie, and before long, Shaun finds herself locked out of the house, with her two children trapped inside.

And so ensues a midnight chess game, as Shaun tries to outwit the killers and find a way in to save her children. It’s a fun, pulpy premise, but sadly, the film takes a route that’s too silly to be taken seriously and too tame to be any fun. Director James McTeigue can’t seem to decide whether he’s making a gritty revenge thriller or a lightweight crowd-pleaser, and the result is a jumbled mess that can’t seem to settle on a tone. (It’s hard to take Eddie seriously as a cold-blooded master villain when he berates one of his lackeys for being a “frickin’” idiot.) There are a few fun face-offs between Shaun and the various baddies, but the action is undermined by the uneven script. Rather than actually searching for the safe and moving the plot along, Eddie spends long, heavy-handed scenes monologuing about why you should never underestimate a mother.

The true hero of the film is Union, who grounds the story and imbues a flimsy character with pathos and grit — whether Shaun is trying to comfort her kids or stabbing someone with the stem of a wineglass. Just like any mom, she’s working harder than the rest of the family combined. Here’s hoping there’s an action thriller in the pipeline that makes better use of Union’s talents. C

Breaking In (Movie)

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 88 minutes
  • James McTeigue