The Mother (2023) Review!!

Synopsis – While fleeing from dangerous assailants, an assassin comes out of hiding to protect her daughter she left earlier in life.

My Take – Though she has well proven her acting mettle in dramatic works like Selena (1997), An Unfinished Life (2005) and Hustlers (2019), for many reasons the ever-charismatic Jennifer Lopez continues to be one of the more popular faces that represent the romantic comedy genre.

However, what made her stand out particularly in her most recent effort, Shotgun Wedding (2022), was her solid potential in the action genre, something which was last showcased in the underrated thriller, Enough (2002). Tapping into that potential, this latest from director Niki Caro (Mulan, The Whale Rider) clearly aimed to turn her into a full blown action star.

And while her answer to a straight up Liam Neeson action thriller delivers some brutal moments and commitment from Lopez, sadly, it also doesn’t give her much to work with, resulting in yet another formulaic and inert Netflix action thriller.

Serviceable with enough fighting to keep most from getting bored, the film, written by Misha Green (Lovecraft Country), Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton), and Peter Craig (The Batman, Top Gun: Maverick), ultimately suffers from poor editing, incompetent film making, and a clunky script, leaving Lopez to do all the heavy lifting.

Making matters worse is the film’s predictability that sort of steals away from both the action and thriller aspects of the story. Not allowing enough reasons to support it for more than just a single viewing.

The story follows an unnamed former U.S. operative (Jennifer Lopez), with an impressive number of confirmed kills, who over the years has worked with and has had relationships with both Hector Álvarez (Gael Garcia Bernal), an arms dealer and Adrian Lovell (Joseph Fiennes), an ex-SAS marine, two gun-running and people-trafficking bad men.

But when she becomes pregnant, bitterly regrets her life, she tries to cut a deal with the FBI. And when she is brought to a safe house for questioning, the place is attacked by Adrian and his men, killing everyone, with the exception of William Cruise (Omari Hardwick), an FBI agent, who she saves.

Sadly, Eleanor Williams (Edie Falco), a tough love FBI agent, lays out the hard truth of her situation – the only way to protect her child is to terminate her parental rights and put the baby in witness protection. Taking a promise from Cruise that he will watch over her and contact her at the first sign of trouble, the new mother secludes herself to a remote cabin in Alaska.

However, twelve years later, when Zoe (Lucy Paez), her now teenaged daughter, is kidnapped, she is forced to return to her old ways to take down Hector and Adrian for good.

It’s a hell of a lot of setup to get what becomes the real meat of the drama. Though the film is disappointing for a number of reasons, but none more so than the fact that the film’s prologue sets it up to be a far more entertaining and effective thriller than it turns out to be. Affording a surprisingly brutal opening, within minutes Jennifer Lopez‘s pregnant black ops informant has been viciously stabbed in the belly by Joseph Fiennes‘ antagonist.

Of course this darker tone is impossible to maintain, particularly across a narrative which requires a lot of detours, and an entire middle act dedicated to bonding. We see the Mother teaching Zoe to drive, shoot, and fend for herself in the Alaska wilderness.

The two of them getting to know each other and forging a connection through circumstance is the best narrative thread in the film, but director Caro speeds through it quickly. It’s shocking when the film at one point refers to the months they’ve spent together and it feels like days, maximum.

A banter-filled dinner conversation between the duo ranks as one of the film’s best scenes, but the arguments that are supposed to serve as the foundation of their long-awaited relationship fall utterly flat.

The ineffectiveness of these moments, combined with a selection of terrible needle drops, drag down the second half long before the film even gets to its lackluster, illogical climactic set piece. As was the case in her reinterpretation of Disney’s live action Mulan remake, director Caro’s approach to action film making leaves a lot to be desired.

The most exciting action sequences involve long-range gun fights and vehicle chase scenes. But the few hand-to-hand combat sequences are edited beyond recognition, robbing viewers of any chance to follow the action or appreciate the work Lopez put in for this role. What you’re left with at the end of all of these missteps is an action film that takes a lot of shots, only a few of which actually hit their target.

Make no mistake, this is a Jennifer Lopez starrer and that means one thing: she is the most impressive element around which everyone else circles. Her performance is, in fact, the best aspects of the film and is clearly giving it her all. Lucy Paez is just the right combination of childish innocence and teenage sarcasm.

Omari Hardwick is fine, Gael García Bernal delivers his role comically, while Joseph Fiennes looks understandably bored and irritated by the whole tiring business. In small roles, Edie Falco, Paul Raci, and Jesse Garcia don’t have much to do. On the whole, ‘The Mother’ is a formulaic action thriller that is serviceable enough to keep most folks engaged.

Directed –

Starring – Jennifer Lopez, Gael García Bernal, Joseph Fiennes

Rated – R

Run Time – 115 minutes

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