Breaking In is definitely not good, but I definitely enjoyed it a lot anyway. Take that for exactly as much as you will, and pay exactly as much attention to the star rating as you think you must, but be aware that the summer of 2018 will be thick with "better" films that I'll be less likely to re-watch when they show up on basic cable some rainy Saturday. Because that is exactly the sort of movie Breaking In is: a ratty little thriller that knows just how trashy is the right amount of trashy, and makes an outright fetish object of getting in and out quickly, with a running time that tops out at 88 minutes, with credits (which doesn't prevent it from having a bloated final act with two false climaxes).

There is absolutely no chance in hell that the 2002 film Panic Room wasn't invoked in the pitch meeting. Breaking In plays basically as the inverse of that film: instead of a mother and daughter being trapped in an ultra-high-tech panic room as burglars skulk about, here the mother and her childen are on opposite sides of a high-security fortress of a house. The four burglars (like the kids, one more than were found in Panic Room) are looking for a fortune that the mom doesn't know is there, just like that film, and things would probably have worked out okay if one of the burglars wasn't a psychopath, just like that film. The mom, in this case, is Shaun Russell, played by Gabrielle Union, an actor who is perpetually starved for the kind of roles that her talent and screen presence would both justify receiving; I'm not sure that this is actually the role she deserves, but anyway, it's a lot of fun to see her as a granite-faced mama bear stalking on the outside of a gorgeous bungalow-style mansion nestled in the lakeside woods

Shaun's dad has just died - been murdered, as we saw in the opening scene - and she doesn't particularly mind. There has been no love lost between daughter and father, particularly because father was a career criminal, and his rich estate is no enticement to Shaun now. So the trek up to a very California-looking "Wisconsin" to clean out his massive house on 24 acres for the purpose of selling it brings only agony to her. Shaun and her kids - Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and Glover (Seth Carr) - aren't the first visitors to the property since the old man died, though. His murderers are already there, on the hunt for the very well-hidden safe where all of his cash was socked away while the district attorney closed in on his criminal activities. And this is communicated by director James McTeigue and company in a series of just-sufficiently-leading visual cues, matched with some rather-more-than-sufficiently-leading music cues from composer Jimmy Klimek: a knocked-over picture, an errant coffee cup, etc.

When the bad guys show up, they're an expectedly motley assortment: taciturn Guy Whose Name Is Definitely Never Said Onscreen, But I Guess It's Eddie? (Billy Burke), the de facto leader; twitchy, panicked kid Sam And I Don't Think That Said That Onscreen Either (Levi Meaden), who was the one who told the others about the safe in the first place; crooked-nosed psychopath Duncan (Richard Cabral); and Peter (Mark Furze), the safecracker, who runs afoul of Shaun first, and thus gets to learn the hard way that apparently, the old saying about mothers gaining super-strength in times of danger to their children is entirely true. It's actually sort of charming how fully Breaking In fails to leave it in any doubt that Shaun is going to beat the crap out of her assailants, though they do get a few shots in - those who are inherently turned off by seeing men wallop women in movies need to stay away from this one - and there are a few mechanically solid plot contrivances that keep the tension aloft.

Most interestingly, the film unexpectedly shifts gears once we've met all the villains, choosing to spend some time with them and subjectively link up with their perspective, rather than Shaun's. Lots of movies do this - Panic Room and Die Hard, to name but two that this film is conspicuously indebted to - but Breaking In does it for a really long time, and it's not a really long movie to begin with. Without ever even briefly sacrificing the stakes at the heart (will she save her kids?), the film manages to drum up some real suspense by turning its avenging mama protagonist into the unseen phantom stalking around the edges of the locked-down safehouse. It's weird, but kind of cool, and damned if it's not effect. The film isn't artful, but it works, and it has some flashes of creativity: it uses a drone camera well, it asks us to notice details without always telling us what detail matters, and it arms more bombs than it's looking to set off, so we can never be quite certain which of the inevitable clichés is going to be sprung on us, which is kind of the same thing as being surprised.

All of that leads up to a fun, enjoyable potboiler. And that's just what this is: I regretted neither the time nor money spent on it. All the same, I would be a liar to call it a good film. Outside of Union and Burke, who are awesome separately and even more awesome in their steely battles of will together, there's not one performance that rises up to tolerable, let alone "good" (early on, the kids have some well-delivered one-liners). Nor would it be right to call what Union and Burke are up to "great acting"; it's fun, it's exactly what a trashy thriller like this needs, but it's pretty one-note. The film also suffers, but in a hilarious way, from its desire for a PG-13 rating. It's one thing to have the violence scaled back (which doesn't deprive us of one enthusiastically queasy early moment with the stem of a wine glass); but the number of lines clearly written with a "fuck" in them and then indifferently replaced is definitely something. "Clearly, you're a freaked-up tweaker with inaccurate information" says Duncan to Sam at one point, which to be fair, is an astonishing line of dialogue for multiple reasons beyond bowdlerisation.

The only real problem, though, is pacing. Again, this is whisper of a movie, just 88 minutes - maybe four of those minutes are end credits, probably not more. But it is a long 88 minutes: the point where my brain and body were ready to wind down and leave the theater happened fully two fake-out endings before the real one (which is very strangely-timed: there's a pause of several seconds between last shot and the start of the credit scroll, as the music fades out, and it's just wrong). It has a very clear, maybe even too-clear structure, but that very evenness and predictability hurts it as it starts to get into the "wheel-spinning" phase of the plot. Still worth catching, though ideally worth catching for free; a grubby little beach read like this can stand a lot of things, but even a moment where you find yourself think, "wait, am I bored right now?" is not one of them, and it lasts much longer than a moment in Breaking In.