May 12th, 2023
MOVIE: THE MOTHER
STARRING: JENNIFER LOPEZ, GAEL GARCIA BERNAL, PAUL RACI, JOSEPH FIENNES, OMARI HARDWICK
DIRECTED BY: NIKI CARO
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
Earlier this year in my review of Shotgun Wedding, I mentioned that at this point in her career, Jennifer Lopez could do no wrong. I still stand by that sentiment because we’ve seen her succeed in an action movie like The Mother before, but this one is too bland to make an impact. Director Niki Caro (Mulan; The Zookeeper’s Wife) isn’t a stranger to telling stories about powerful women pushing back against the male-dominated society but this time it’s not working. J-Lo is her normal impressive self, in a movie that fails to let her be the bad-ass mother that we know she can be.
Lopez is the title character- I don’t think they actually say the character’s name- whom we catch up with being interrogated by FBI agents. What she’s being told is that they will cut a deal with her for giving up past associates Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) and ex-marine Adrian (Joseph Fiennes). The problem is they are hunting her too and she nearly dies by a knife from Adrian to the gut. It’s in her moment of survival when the FBI tells her to give up her newborn child to keep her hidden from the bad guys, sending The Mother into the woods for her own safety. That of course won’t last long when the bad guys kidnap daughter Zoe (Lucy Paez), turning the plot into one pissed-off mama bear hunting down the men that dared to threaten the one thing she had left to live for.
A premise of this nature is not new or groundbreaking by any stretch. It also is typically a male-dominated genre, from Liam Neeson, Kenu in John Wick, or even Bob Odenkirk in Nobody, so getting Lopez in this role is certainly exciting. The problems lie in the screenplay from Misha Green, Andrea Berloff, and Peter Craig, with neither of them coming up with anything fresh or exciting. The plot is painfully pedestrian. Our hero Mother is on the hunt with FBI agent Cruise (Omari Hardwick). There is a moment of a car chase, some brutal fist fights, and a build to a climactic ending battle, but all of it moves at such a languid pace it becomes impossible to care.
It’s also interesting by the standards of where action movies have gone, with John Wick: Chapter 4 and Sisu proving that old-school styles can be blended with new kinds of action, and none of that is in The Mother. It more or less has Lopez doing nothing. Riding in cars, hiding out in dirty motels, and discussing her regrets of not getting to be the mother she knows she could be. Then you also have the blankness of the villain. Fiennes is channeling something, mixing in a sort of New Orleans accent and acting as cold as the snow that surrounds him, but none of it is that menacing. Credit for him taking a swing but it’s a big whiff.
The Mother is another shining example of how Netflix treats its content as well. Similar to Sweet Girl or The Gray Man, there’s not enough care and creativity put into the stories surrounding the stars. J-Lo can do this kind of movie in her sleep. We see it in Out of Sight, the sharp attitude in Hustlers, and even The Boy Next Door. What The Mother settles for is below all of that. It’s not interesting enough for us to care, it’s not exciting enough for anything memorable, and it is all forgotten soon after it ends. This is unfortunately one bad mother.
THE MOTHER IS CURRENTLY PLAYING ON NETFLIX FRIDAY MAY 12TH, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady