Meets the play­ers at Chat­tanooga Football Club Day at Chat­tanooga Mar­ket. SUN­DAY

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - FRONT PAGE - BY LIND­SEY BAHR

There is one per­fect mo­ment in “Break­ing In ” that one goes to see a movie like “Break­ing In” for and it comes rel­a­tively early on.

Gabrielle Union’s char­ac­ter, Shaun, has found her­self un­der at­tack in the drive­way where she’d been at­tempt­ing to or­der pizza for her two kids. She’s un­aware that her son and daugh­ter have al­ready been grabbed by the home in­vaders. She’s shoe­less, sur­prised and on in­ter­minable hold with the pizza place when the at­tack hap­pens. But, she also has just ac­ci­den­tally bro­ken her wine glass and, so, as re­source­ful ladies are wont to do, stabs the guy in the chest with the stem.

Thank­fully she’d had the chance to gulp down the con­tents first con­sid­er­ing what comes next, which, might ac­tu­ally not be a bad idea for the au­di­ence ei­ther. Your house is un­der at­tack and your kids are be­ing held hostage. Are your “mama bear” in­stincts up to the task?

It’s not a bad idea and Union proves more than ca­pa­ble of nail­ing her Liam Nee­son/Bruce Willis mo­ment of save-your-fam­ily ac­tion star­dom, but the movie has trou­ble sus­tain­ing in­ter­est over its brisk 88 min­utes. Di­rected by James McTeigue (“V for Ven­detta”) and writ­ten by Ryan En­gle (“Non-Stop”), “Break­ing In” is ba­si­cally “Panic Room” in re­verse, but less clever and thrilling.

Union, as Shaun, and her son, Glover (Seth Carr), and teenage daugh­ter Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) are on a week­end trip to her late fa­ther’s Wis­con­sin man­sion to col­lect some be­long­ings and meet the real es­tate agent. “This place is a fortress,” some­one ac­tu­ally says as they ex­plore the in­tense se­cu­rity sys­tem that her tech-savvy son ex­plains is so easy to use that even mom could do it.

Shaun’s fa­ther dies in the open­ing scene in an in­ten­tional hit- and- run, amid a barely ex­plained DA in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But no one seems to care or be too cu­ri­ous about that, plus Shaun’s been es­tranged from her fa­ther for years.

It’s why the four bur­glars as­sumed that there won’t be any­one in the house when they pick this night to find a safe that they’ve been told con­tains $4 mil­lion. Why they couldn’t just come back an­other night in­stead of get­ting t hem­selves in­volved in an es­ca­lat­ing hostage cri­sis isn’t some­thing the movie is in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing, ei­ther.

So the leader, Ed­die ( Billy Burke), the frosted- t i pped and morally con­flicted Sam ( Levi Meaden), the psy­chotic Dun­can (Richard Cabral) and the ex-mil­i­tary Peter (Mark Furze) de­cide that the best course of ac­tion is to kid­nap the kids, hunt down the mom and play it by ear as to whether or not to kill them.

Shaun is put through the ringer as she at­tempts to break back into the house to get her kids and take con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion, which quickly starts to feel repet­i­tive. If only the script were a lit­tle bet­ter. Burke seems un­will­ing to go full campy vil­lain, in­stead play­ing it straight even though every other line of di­a­logue is him psy­cho­an­a­lyz­ing Shaun’s mom drive. (“Fear I can man­age, des­per­a­tion is a whole other thing” and “Moms don’t run, not when their ba­bies are trapped in the nest” are just a few of the gems).

He often goes back to the re­frain that he’s pretty i mpressed with her de­ter­mi­na­tion and how he “knows” that ev­ery­one un­der­es­ti­mates her. I sup­pose it’s the sort of line that women are sup­posed to re­late to in gen­eral, maybe, but you also start to re­al­ize that you know noth­ing about Shaun — oc­cu­pa­tion, in­ter­ests, life, ex­er­cise reg­i­men. Do peo­ple un­der­es­ti­mate her? Did he? Were we sup­posed to?

It’s telling about the level of thought put into this story and script, but, again, “Break­ing In” is not nec­es­sar­ily even try­ing to live up those stan­dards, and de­spite all odds and ev­ery­thing go­ing on around her, Union sells it. Maybe we did un­der­es­ti­mate her af­ter all.

PAUL SARKIS/ UNI­VER­SAL PIC­TURES VIA AP

Ajiona Alexus, left, and Gabrielle Union in “Break­ing In.”

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