‘Knowing the typical dynamic between burglar and home-owner is switched slightly […] it adds this tension and intrigue in the characters’
2018 in Cinema:
Directed by: James McTeigue
Starring: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Ajiona Alexus, Levi Meaden
After the death of her father, Shaun (Gabrielle Union) is left as the owner of his rather large home and plans to sell it. Going up there to finalise the selling arrangements, she soon finds herself locked out of the house as four burglars break in and hold her children, son Sam (Levi Meaden) and daughter Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus), hostage. Now it’s up to Shaun to break back into this borderline-impenetrable fortress to rescue her children.
I watched this straight after watching The Strangers: Prey at Night and I was thankful that all the errors with that film (the lack of a clear understanding of the size of the location and more simple character stories) were not present here. Early on we have tours of the house and explanations of how impenetrable it is, which while it’s obvious and feels kind of forced, it does help us know the parameter of the house.
This was a very enjoyable film from start to finish; with characters which are likeable and villains which are different (all four burglars have different personalities and levels of danger, such as one who murders on a whim and another who hasn’t murdered yet), and you feel invested in Shaun’s journey as it’s her children in there being held hostage by four men. I’ve seen similar revenge-type films like this (the most notable was I Spit on your Grave, where a raped woman returns to kill her rapists one by one), and they always have that underdog story attached to them that we can buy into because, and I mean no disrespect by this, she’s a woman competing physically against four men. A lot of the dialogue is aimed at this gender dynamic, too, with Shaun bragging at times to them about how they’re succumbing to a woman’s demand and other times with the burglars accepting she’s no threat because she’s a woman. For the most part this works in terms of storytelling, as it’s cementing her underdog status, but there are a few times where it goes a bit overboard, with her borderline stating she has superhuman strength because she’s a mother. There are lines that feel forced if you look at this as legitimate, but I still understand their placement here.
It’s also a very well told story with regards to the house being so impenetrable; she’s shown to be clever and cunning in her attempts to get any door open so she can sneak in, and her knowledge of the house and all its corridors and rooms allow her to be stealthy when inside. There are also a number of scenes which are quite worrying for her, one especially where she has to hold on to a banister by her fingertips as one of the burglars is walking by. Knowing the typical dynamic between burglar and home-owner is switched slightly (in the fact that it’s technically now her breaking in rather than the burglars who have set up base there) it adds this tension and intrigue in the characters. There are also a good number of false finishes with surprise character returns or the steep changing of the plot’s development which keep you on your toes throughout as to where the story goes next.
While most of the film is decent, there are a few things which prevent its score being much higher; one being what I’ve touched upon (that of some lines of dialogue feeling forced and unnatural), the other main one being the underdog story at times is hard to buy into because she feels in control a lot of the time. There are moments of pure agony in her expressions about how her children are being held hostage, but then there’s scenes after she finds the kids where she leaves them again and asks them to be quite sarcastic to the four burglars threatening their lives. It is part of a bigger plan but when she feels so in control to allow her kids to remain trapped while she puts together a plan, it makes it harder to buy into her being a helpless victim in all of this rather than a person whose dealt with similar scenarios before and knows how to handle it.
That doesn’t take away too much from the fact this film is still very interesting; it will not be making a big splash as there’s not enough to stand out, but it will certainly entertain movie goers who give is a shot.
Personal: * * * Acting: * * * Writing: * * * Presentation: * * * *