Gabrielle Union stars in struggling thriller as a mother protecting her children from a team of D-grade criminals

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It’s hard to tell who’s more inept in the disastrous home invasion thriller “Breaking In,” the bumbling criminals or the filmmakers themselves.

Either way, the film is a mess, a jumble of incompetence wrapped in an unconvincing message of female empowerment.

Gabrielle Union stars as Shaun, a mother of two heading up to northern Wisconsin to clean up her father’s home after he is run down by a car. (The movie cliché where characters are minding their own business and are suddenly walloped by automobiles, perhaps started by “Meet Joe Black” but now popping up frequently, really needs to pump the brakes.)

Shaun and her children arrive at the rural home, tricked out with an ultra-high tech security system, but they’re not alone. A team of four idiot criminals, led by the sleepy-eyed Eddie (Billy Burke), is already in the house, scouring for $4 million in cash that is hidden inside a safe.

So begins a hapless game of cat and mouse, with neither team drawing from a particularly sharp playbook. There are plenty of unintentional laughs — hardened criminal Eddie, who has no problem upping a felony B&E to a murder rap, vents about his “fricking” frustrations, because in a PG-13 movie only one F-bomb is allowed and it’s saved for Union in a climactic one-liner — but nothing in the way of suspense.

Director James McTeigue (“V for Vendetta”) at least allows viewers to feel superior to the characters; he has fashioned a film where seemingly anything yelled by the audience has more thought behind it than what is happening on screen. “Breaking In” is broken.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Breaking In’

GRADE: D

Rated PG-13 for violence, menace, bloody images, sexual references, and brief strong language

Running time: 88 minutes

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