Jennifer Lopez's charisma saves The Mother's pedestrian plot.
Director Niki Caro follows up her solid Mulan remake with another female-led actioner in The Mother from Netflix. Television writer Misha Green of Underground and Love Country fame pens the screenplay with Andrea Berloff and Peter Craig.
The film features Jennifer Lopez as a pregnant hitwoman who remains unnamed throughout the story. In an attempt to escape her past employers, she seeks help from the FBI. Following an assassination attempt on her life, agent William Curtis (played by Omari Hardwick) sympathizes with her situation. He agrees to keep her in hiding while providing updates on her child.
Ten years later mother is living off the grid and has come to terms without having any contact with her daughter. However, things go left when the mother discovers her daughter Zoe (Lucy Paez) is now in danger and has been kidnapped by her former employer Hector Alvarez (Gael Garcia Bernal). Further complicating matters is another ex-employer Adrian Lovell (Joseph Fiennes) is also hot on her trail and out for revenge. The mother realizes she must team up with William to save her daughter and herself.
In 2023 Movies centered on female assassins are arguably a genre in itself. Oscar winners Jessica Chastain, Geena Davis, Michelle Yeoh, and Charlize Theron all have a movie from the genre in their filmography. My first time seeing a film was Luc Besson's 1990 hit La Femme Nikita, which would get two film remakes and two television series. I generally enjoy the genre but acknowledge the stinkers such as Anna and numerous low-budget titles. So how does The Mother measure up?
I admit that I used to criticize Jennifer Lopez's movie roles unfairly. In her nineties films, J-Lo impressed me by holding her own alongside Robin Williams, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, and George Clooney. Following her achievements in romantic comedies, she appeared stuck to that particular genre.
The older I've gotten, the more I realize that sometimes it's about playing it safe to secure a bag so you do the things you want. That said, J-Lo is having a blast getting her action heroine on in The Mother. While she has portrayed strong women in action flicks like Money Train and the crime drama Out of Sight, neither one comes close to what she does here. Whether in hand-to-hand combat or weapon skills, The Mother plays no games. I also want to commend the scriptwriters for downplaying the plot armor for Lopez's character because while she does some damage to the baddies, she also takes some damage.
Now for the negative aspects of the film. The trio of writers only gives the supporting cast a little to do and negates them all to action movie templates. Kudos to Lucy Paez, who easily pulls off the angst-ridden tween, avoiding overly cuteness. Regretfully though, Omari Hardwick, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Joseph Fiennes are all clearly phoning in their performances. While I was happy to see Hardwick back on screen, the script could've fleshed out his character more. As for Fiennes and Bernal, the script didn't delve into their history with The Mother for my liking.
Nevertheless, director Niki Caro and star Lopez deliver enough action set pieces and an engaging enough story for the film to receive my recommendation.
Final Grade: B-
The Mother is available to stream on Netflix tomorrow.