Working from a script by John Sayles, Scottish maverick Bill (Local Hero, Housekeeping) Forsyth directed this low-watt caper comedy about an aging safecracker, Ernie (Burt Reynolds), who takes a young drifter under his wing and teaches him the fine art of light-fingered burglary. The two team up for a couple of small scores and then face the larger question of whether they actually trust each other.
Reynolds, sporting thin gray hair and a pair of clerkish spectacles, is really trying this time. His Ernie is a likable fuddy-duddy, a man who breaks the law but never the rules. And Reynolds does an appealing soft-shoe variation on his usual throwaway moves. Unfortunately, there’s not much excitement to his minimalist performance. (It may be that we simply have nothing left to discover about Burt Reynolds.) Less successful is Casey Siemaszko as Mike, who breaks into houses for fun, not profit. With his curly mop and blank expression, he suggests nothing so much as the less charismatic brother of Keanu Reeves.
This is the first film Forsyth has directed that he didn’t either write or adapt himself. That may be why it feels like the work of a Forsyth imitator. All of his familiar trademarks are here: the lonely-guy heroes, the subliminal gags, the atmosphere of free-floating dislocation. But missing is Forsyth’s undertow of vitality.
Breaking In is a pleasant yet weirdly negligible movie. It fits all too snugly on the small screen, which isn’t necessarily to its credit. B-