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Breaking In

Home is where the heartbreak is in James McTeigue's invasion thriller, which pits a grieving and resourceful mother against four criminals, who have taken her daughter and son hostage inside her hi-tech childhood home. Stripped bare of extraneous plotting and characterisation, Breaking In swiftly establishes the tense stand-off between intruders and a family in crisis, then delights in turning the tables on the aggressors in sweat-drenched skirmishes. McTeigue's picture may not be pretty, punctuated by flashes of mild violence, or original but it is ruthlessly efficient, neatly contained with a 90-minute timeframe before the house's compromised security system automatically alerts police to a burglary in progress. Ryan Engle's script generates sufficient dramatic momentum to sprint through a brisk running time without pausing for breath once the desperate mother creates her first diversion with firecrackers left over from Fourth of July celebrations. Gabrielle Union lets her fiercely protective parent prickle with raw emotion in briskly paced opening scenes, as she tries to conceal conflicted feelings from her young brood. Once the first scream rings out, her performance is largely physical and relies on luck as much as ingenuity to extricate her babies from the clutches of merciless predators. Shaun Russell (Union) learns of the death of her estranged father (Damien Leake), who is under investigation for money laundering and tax evasion. As next of kin, she must settle his estate. At short notice, Shaun drags her teenage daughter Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and young son Glover (Seth Carr) to the deceased's fortress-like retreat in Wisconsin, which is fitted with state-of-the-art security. Jasmine is unhappy about having her plans for the weekend ruined by an old man she never knew and she clashes with her mother during the drive to Lake Constance. As the family settles for the night and Shaun telephones her husband Justin (Jason George), a gang of criminals led by Eddie (Billy Burke) breaks in and takes the children hostage. "You are a woman, alone, at the mercy of strangers," growls Eddie to Shaun via the intercom while his accomplices Duncan (Richard Cabral), Peter (Mark Furze) and Sam (Levi Meaden) ransack the house. Eddie is confident Shaun will do his bidding. "Mums don't run, not when their babies are trapped in the nest," he smirks. The thieves badly under-estimate Shaun and she uses her intimate knowledge of the property to stage a daring rescue. Breaking In has no grand pretentions. McTeigue's film sets out to gently thrill and largely succeeds without breaking the characters' sweat or whitening our knuckles. The script pivots around the mother-daughter relationship of Union's homemaker and Alexus' feisty chip off the not-so-old block, emphasising the power of women of all ages to stand tall and proud in a male-dominated arena. Not even four knife-wielding, crudely sketched lunatics can sever that bond.