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Movie Review

They say that when mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. And boy, this mama is seriously miffed.

The day was always going to be difficult, and Shaun Russell knew it: Packing up rooms full of memories is never easy under the best of circumstances, and Shaun's circumstances fall well short of "best." She and her dad had a difficult relationship, but when her father is killed while jogging—he's hit by a truck—it's up to her to go to the family house, weed through the family belongings and get the place ready to sell.

Her hubby, Justin, can't help: He's tied up at the office. Her kids can, but naturally, they don't want to. Teen daughter Jazz hoped to spend time with a prospective beau. Young son Glover just wants to play video games. Yep, the Russell family SUV is just flooded with proverbial unicorns and rainbows.

But hey, that's family life for you, right? It doesn't always look like those commercials for prepackaged dinners. Shaun's been a mom for a long time. She can deal.

Then company arrives.

They're not interested in dinner and chitchat. Nope, these four fellows want just one thing. Well, really, 4 million things: dollars. Stuffed away in a safe somewhere in the house, they believe. Sure, four million clams don't go as far as they used to, but for this felonious foursome, it's a start. They killed the old man and, naturally, assumed they could case his casa at their leisure. Shaun and her kids complicate matters, for sure. But it's nothing that a little duct tape and maybe a couple bullets can't solve.

Eddie and the rest of his crooked quartet nab the kids first—easy as anything, really. Mom's harder to corral. One thug does his best, but he's skewered with a broken wine glass stem for his trouble. No matter, Eddie thinks: He's got her children, after all. They're inside the house, she's outside, and the house itself makes the security at Fort Knox look like a garden shed padlock.

Shaun may be feisty, but in the end, she'll do whatever he wants her to.

"You are a woman, alone, at the mercy of strangers," he tells her. "And your greatest weakness is trapped in the house with us."

Greatest weakness? Greatest weakness?! Did this guy ever even have a mother?

Oh, yeah. Jazz and Glover can be a handful. They can roll their eyes and talk back and give Shaun her share of headaches. But no one, and I mean no one, messes with 'em. She doesn't care how secure the house is. She doesn't care how many guns and knives the crooks carry. Shaun is not happy now. And when she gets done with these overconfident housejackers, they won't be very happy, either.

Positive Elements

When one of the bad guys attacks Shaun, he tells her something interesting: "I wish I could've had a mom like you."

Now, this stray comment could be taken in a variety of unsettling ways, but I choose to put a positive spin on it: This guy, Duncan's his name, really could've used a mom like Shaun. If he'd had one who loved him so fiercely, perhaps he would've turned out a bit better.

Shaun is indeed a loving, protective mother. "It's not your job to worry about me," she tells Jazz. "It's my job to worry about you." She takes that job quite seriously, and winds up doing a lot more than worrying. She risks her life and does her best to instill some very necessary courage in her daughter, too: "You're strong, you're smart, you're everything I could've hoped for," she tells Jazz. "You're my daughter. You can do this."

And so Jazz does. When she and Glover are trapped alone with the would-be killers, the girl shows bravery and moxie in doing what must be done—even parroting her mother's own words to her little brother when she goes off on a dangerous mission.

"What if you don't come back?" Glover asks. "I'm your big sister," she says. "It's my job to worry about you, not your job to worry about me." And when Jazz and Glover seemingly escape from danger, Jazz dives back into the fray to save a loved one.

Spiritual Content

None.

Sexual Content

Glover ribs Jazz over her "new boyfriend." When she insists he's not her boyfriend, Glover reminds her that the guy made Jazz a whole playlist filled with "sex songs." "A whole playlist?" Shaun asks.

Jazz wears a top that exposes a bit of midriff underneath her overalls, and her shorts are pretty short, as well. Shaun's top dives a bit, too, and her jeans hug her form as well.

Eddie says that he saw Sam, one of his co-conspirators, when he was "kneeling" in a prison shower—an allusion to homosexual oral sex. He makes another reference to the event later.

Violent Content

Duncan attacks Jazz and seems intent upon raping her. He pins her hands against a pool table and tells her not to fight. He warns Shaun of his intentions toward her daughter, too—telling her that he plans to have "fun" with her, and contemplates making it a "family affair."

Someone's neck breaks after falling off the roof. (A bit of the presumed spine visibly pokes the skin of the victim's neck, and several people sprint past the twisted corpse in various scenes.) Another guy is roughed up something fierce: We see him hit and kicked and hear what seems to be a bone breaking. (In later scenes, though, the man appears to have weathered the abuse without any broken bones.)

A couple of folks get stabbed to death, with a blade penetrating their bodies repeatedly. Another is gunned down. Still another has his throat slit. (The camera focuses solely on the killer, not the victim, but it's still pretty harrowing.) The knife used in all these deaths is shown often, covered in blood.

Two people are hit by trucks—one bouncing off the windshield, breaking it. The victim is still alive (though bearing an ugly wound on his head), but the truck's driver puts an end to him by, apparently, stomping on his head. (The camera goes dark just as the blow is about to land.)

People suffer a variety of nonlethal wounds, as well. One man thunks his head against a rock and appears for a good stretch of the film to be dead, but later revives. (He is reportedly losing a lot of blood from his wounds, though, and someone argues that he needs attention right away before he bleeds out.) A guy gets stabbed in the chest with glass stemware: We see it sticking out of the man, and once the stem is removed, it leaves a bloody wound. Baseball bats and crowbars are used as weapons. People are threatened by guns and immolation.

We see lots of fighting, and often those fights involve men attacking and punching women and even girls. The crooks threaten the lives of both Jazz and Glover quite a bit, and at one point they plot to tie them to their beds and set the house on fire around them.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word (along with a couple of other stand-ins, "frickin'" and "freaking"), seven s-words and a gym bag full of other profanities, including "a--," "b--ch," "d--n" and "h---." God's name is misused five times, three of those with the word "d--n." Jesus' name is abused twice.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Shaun drinks a glass of wine—rather quickly—before the action begins.

Other Negative Elements

None.

Conclusion

Released on Mother's Day weekend, Breaking In is one of the most frenetic, violent salutes to a mother's love that you'll likely ever see. While much of its already taut 88-minute runtime might've been saved had someone been able to find a working cell phone, Breaking In illustrates a timeless, if somewhat clichéd, truth: Nothing's stronger than the love of a mom.

It's a good—if violently off-kilter—reminder of a mother's indispensable role. Sure, most mothers won't be asked to rescue their kids from the hands of would-be killers. But they are asked—repeatedly—to speak into other difficult problems: broken bones and broken hearts, bad grades and bad decisions.

But the movie makes some bad decisions of its own.

Is that last line wholly fair? Perhaps not. Breaking In, after all, is a thriller—a story of a woman fighting for her family and struggling to survive against some difficult obstacles. We expect a certain amount of violence in such stories. This flick was never going to be, say, Little Women.

Still, the movie's violence is often jarring, especially when it's directed at the female characters here. The film itself never condones this violence, but I can't help wondering whether it's ever healthy to watch a man brutalize a woman or a child, regardless of context. Or to threaten rape, for that matter. Still other sexual allusions and language issues muddy these already murky waters further.

Breaking In, like many a movie, offers some nice messages in the midst of its excessive content. But when I think about my own childhood—and whether my mother would take me to or let me see Breaking In—I kinda think I know the answer. And as she always said, mothers know best.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Gabrielle Union as Shaun Russell; Billy Burke as Eddie; Richard Cabral as Duncan; Ajiona Alexus as Jasmine; Levi Meaden as Sam; Seth Carr as Glover; Mark Furze as Peter; Jason George as Justin

Director

James McTeigue ( )

Distributor

Universal Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

May 11, 2018

On Video

August 7, 2018

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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