There’s a moment during Breaking In where Billy Burke’s character, Eddie, truly sizes up Gabrielle Union’s Shaun. “You’re an impressive woman,” he says. Her response is simple, but in it lies the film’s thesis: “No, I’m not. I’m just a mom.” That one line puts her on par any female superhero to ever grace the big screen. Wonder Woman isn’t just a mythical Amazonian superhero — she’s the everyday woman. She’s the mom, the daughter, the woman whose own inhibitions instantly melt away the moment she realizes she has to protect her children and the woman who will stop at nothing to do so.
In their first effort since last summers smash hit Girls Trip, Will Packer Productions continues to be a leader in diverse representation on the big screen with Breaking In (Packer and Union’s fourth film collaboration overall), putting an African American female front and center for the second time in a row — this time, in one the first great action movies of the summer.
After the sudden death of Shaun’s estranged father, she takes her children Jasmine (13 Reasons Why’s Ajiona Alexus) and Glover (Seth Carr) to settle his estate and prepare his home to be put on the market. They arrive to a house who’s security has been beefed up since the last time Shaun was there, making it virtually impenetrable from the outside. Although sure to be a great selling point, it ends up becoming her worst enemy when a band of merry thugs led by Burke lock her out and hold her children hostage inside while they scour every inch of the house in search of her father’s elusive fortune hidden in a safe somewhere on the property.
Union, who also serves as a producer on the film, spends the next hour and a half desperately trying everything in the book to break back into the house, nothing, and especially no man, standing in her way. She takes quite a beating throughout but claws her way back roaring each time. Helmed by V For Vendetta director James McTeigue, Breaking In benefits from a tight, laser-focused story, serving up straight, unwavering action for an hour and a half, while still managing to serve each of its characters just enough. The power struggle throughout keeps the tension high and the outcome legitimately unpredictable. Just when you think you know what’s about to happen, the opposite sweeps in.
While a lot of Union’s efforts to save her children are certainly herculean, to say the least, a grounding aspect of the film is that she never does anything in her attempts to “break in” that is quite out of the realm of possibility, making it all the more unnerving. Union, having done a little bit of it all throughout her career, also takes up the role of action star with ease, Ajiona Alexus her rightful second in command. Either one of them would fit perfectly into a Marvel movie. Who do we have to call to make that happen? Union is also hereby and henceforth the queen of the death stare. She’s able to convey her anger, fear, and frustration in one piercing look that could strike the fear of God into a rodent.
At its core, Breaking In’s premise is simple, which makes it all the more powerful. A woman doesn’t need a complicated, far-fetched story to show just how much of a badass she can be. It’s a fresh twist on a very worn concept, and the action movie your mom deserves.
Breaking In is in theaters May 11th.