REVIEW: ‘Breaking In’ is Rambo meets ‘mama bear,’ with a few ethical questions
May 11th, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments
Shaun Russell is a loving, middle class mom who’s simply trying to teach her two children to know right from wrong – and to respect authority, too.
Her life is interrupted when her wealthy father – the dad she never got along with – is struck and killed while jogging. She’s left with a big mansion, a big piece of land, and an even bigger headache.
Wanting to forget her past and escape her father’s legal troubles, she opts to sell the place. But first she and her children will visit it and gather a few things, including personal mementoes.
The plan quickly goes awry. Upon arrival, she discovers the alarm has been tripped. Minutes later, her kids are taken hostage by three guys who want her father’s money, and she’s being chased through the woods by a fourth guy who wants her dead.
Can she find a way to save her own life – and the lives of her children, too?
Breaking In (PG-13) opens this Mother’s Day weekend, giving us the story of a mom who will do anything to rescue her kids. It stars Gabrielle Union (Bring It On, Bad Boys II) as Shaun Russell, Ajiona Alexus (13 Reasons Why) as her teen daughter Jasmine, Seth Carr (Black Panther) as her young son Glover, and Billy Burke (Twilight) as the lead bad guy, Eddie.
Breaking In has its fun-and-tense moments but plenty of ultra-violent ones, too. That’s because the movie is a combination of Rambo, Mission Impossible and every “mama bear” story you’ve imagined.
It’s what most parents would try if their kids were held hostage by four bad dudes, miles and miles from police. Still, the film’s violence had me wondering: How close was it to being rated “R”?
Let’s examine the details.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers ahead!
(Scale key: Minimal, moderate, extreme)
Extreme. With plenty of male-on-female violence (and vice versa). We see someone stabbed by a wine glass shard. A female character is choked and dragged by her hair. (She survives.) An unexpected visitor to the house is killed when her throat is slashed. (We don’t see it.) The mom is savagely beaten in the film’s final scenes. A child shoots a gun at a bad guy. A bad guy gets run over by a vehicle. A knife is placed on the teen daughter’s throat. The children are tied up, with tape over their mouths. Another unexpected visitor to the house is beaten. We see someone shot and killed. We see someone get stabbed and killed. (We see the bloody knife.) We see dead bodies, too.
Minimal. A sex act is referenced but not explicitly described.
Moderate. About 30 coarse words: s—t (11), b—ch (6), h-ll (5), GD (2), SOB (1) “swear to G-d” (1), misuse of “Jesus” (1), d—n (1), f-word (1), a— (1).
Other Positive Elements
From the film’s opening scenes, it’s obvious the mom unconditionally loves her children. When the teen daughter seems concerned for her mom’s emotional state, the mom responds, “It’s not your job to worry about me. It’s my job to worry about you.” We also see the mom express love for her husband (via a phone call), and the siblings demonstrate their love for one another.
The robbers see this love and decide to take advantage of it. Eddie says, “Moms don’t run – not when their babies are in the nest.”
Breaking In gives us lessons in parental love, bravery and self-sacrifice. One of the bad guys – Duncan – also offers a lesson on the importance of parents when he tells Shaun, “I wish I had a mother like you.”
Would you kill someone to protect your children? That’s the question confronting moviegoers who watch Breaking In. The plot leaves pacifists little wiggle room. The kids are tied up, the robbers are violent, and the police are an hour or more away. We know that Scripture gives the government the right to kill in defense of the innocent (Romans 13), but what about when police aren’t around? By the time help would have arrived in Breaking In, the children might be dead.
Perhaps there was an alternative, as seen in the movie Captive, which was based on the real-life story of a woman who read The Purpose Driven Life to a robber. The gospel indeed is “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).
But if words fail, Scripture allows such an action. We are to “rescue the weak” (Psalm 82:4) and “rescue those who are being taken away to death” (Proverbs 24:11). Scripture permits killing in self-defense (Exodus 22:2). Further, we are to count others more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). In Breaking In, we see the mom do exactly that. She’s even willing to die so that her kids might live.
The slow-motion, room-to-room chase scenes. For much of the film, the tension is thick.
Additionally, it is nice to see an intact, middle-class minority family portrayed on the big screen – and in the main roles, too. Most of the bad guys were white. It’s a role reversal from what historically has been the opposite case in Hollywood.
What Doesn’t Work
The excessive violence. The movie would have worked better with more tension and less blood. Toward the end, the violence got in the way of the plot.
The film continues the troubling trend of male-on-female violence. Yes, the males here are the bad guys, but it’s still unsettling. Tone it down, Hollywood.
- Would you kill to protect your children? Do you think Scripture allows it?
- Could you have done what the mom did? Why or why not?
- What do you think about male-on-female violence in movies, even if the male is the villain?
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Breaking In is rated PG-13 for violence, menace, bloody images, sexual references, and brief strong language.