By Michael P Coleman

“Fear I can manage.  Desperation? That’s a whole different thing.”

It’s one of my favorite lines from Gabrielle Union’s new movie, Breaking In.  It’s spoken by one of the bad guys, Eddie, of Union’s character, Shaun Russell, who fears that her kids are in danger.  That fear turns turns to desperation in a relatively explosive way, and Shaun spends the rest of the movie breaking in to her own home to retrieve her kids from their captors.

Don’t wait to hear other favorite lines of mine from this film.  I didn’t have many, as the script appears to have been hamstrung through several iterations before finally making it to the big screen, and that prolonged process to get the film to market, so to speak, shows. 

One of those early scripts had Union’s would-be heroine having had special combat training earlier in her life.  When the screenplay finally landed in Union’s hands, she wisely made Shaun an everyday mom.  That way, Union surmised, the character would be more relatable to the general public. 

“If we’re going to do a story about a mom saving her kids, most of them aren’t Special Ops,” Union, who also produced the film, told the LA Times.  “But when you hear of people [lifting] cars…a mother’s strength knows no bounds. She perhaps does Zumba or Pilates, but she’s not a Navy Seal.” 

Too bad Union’s character wasn’t strong enough to carry Breaking In.  Her character is well-written, but the three antagonists are one-note bad guys.  In fact, it took all three of them to deliver that one note. 

At a couple of different points in the movie, one of the baddies delivered a line that quite unintentionally elicited riotous laughter from the audience.  The lead villain is played by Billy Burke (of the Twilight franchise).  His performance in Breaking In makes his turns as Bella’s dad seem Academy Award-worthy.

That said, Breaking In is a good diversion during a time when one may need to get away from the world for a couple of hours.  And it is great to see Union spread her wings in a genre that  doesn’t often showcase African American actresses.  Halle Berry may have led the way with last year’s Kidnap, but Union could well be this summer’s black wonder woman. 

“Twenty years ago, I don’t know of a black woman who had a production company or a black show runner who had deals in the kind of way that Shonda [Rhimes] has,” the 45-year-old actress said.  “It was like she said ‘Water’s warm guys,’ and now everyone is cannonballing in.” 

And although Union’s bread and butter has largely been the beautiful ingenue — she said she’s routinely resisted playing mothers on screen, in fact — she’s interested in portraying African American mothers in all of their glory. 

“There’s a tendency to make mothers secondaries and footnotes [on screen],” Union continued.  “It’s the idea that moms — their lives are small, their capabilities are few and far between, that they lost every sense of themselves and what makes them dope…the second they had kids.  I’m not interested in that.” 


 Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.

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