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‘The Mother’: A serviceable action film

by Courtney Lanning | May 12, 2023 at 1:31 a.m.
Mommy dearest: Jennifer Lopez plays an unnamed (and possibly overprotective) parent in Netflix’s Mother’s Day-theme action thriller “The Mother.”

Netflix has a wide range of action movies within its library, and I've seen more than a couple. On one end of the spectrum are excellent films like "The Harder They Fall" and "The Old Guard." The other side of the spectrum is populated with titles I'd rather drive through rush hour in Atlanta than watch again like "The Man From Toronto" and "Interceptor."

Then there are middle-ground movies that are serviceable but don't break any new territory. "Kate" certainly comes to mind. And now I'd add "The Mother" to that same part of this hypothetical range.

Jennifer Lopez stars as a nameless character credited only as "The Mother." Why bother giving her character a name when she's really the only factor Netflix is counting on to draw folks to this film, which releases Mother's Day weekend? Writers Misha Green, Andrea Berloff and Peter Craig must have known that no matter what they named the central character, she'd just end up being called J.Lo anyway. It's the same with Jason Statham in action flicks.

The film opens with The Mother in an FBI safe house, trying to cut a deal for protection as she provides information on a pair of weapons smugglers. But she's antsy, knowing that the agents aren't secure.

As if to prove her point, the house is attacked, and nearly everyone is killed. She manages to save an agent named William Cruise (Omari Hardwick). But she is attacked by one of the two men she ratted out to the FBI, Adrian Lovell (Joseph Fiennes). The smuggler stabs her in the belly after learning she's pregnant, but an explosive she rigged detonates, allowing her to escape to a hospital.

After surgery, The Mother's baby is born, and the FBI advises her to give up the child, saying she'll constantly be a target for Lovell. The Mother approaches a still-recovering Cruise and makes three demands.

First, her baby goes to a good home. Second, she receives an update on her child's birthday each year, letting her know the kid is safe. And finally, if there's any trouble, he contacts her immediately so she can come and protect the child. After that, she leaves, isolating herself in remote Alaska and living off the land.

"The Mother" then jumps ahead 12 years, and Lovell finds the kid, now named Zoe (Lucy Paez). Cruise keeps his promise and contacts Zoe's biological mother, and she comes out of hiding, armed, and ready to kill anyone who threatens Zoe.

I can't say I was ever bored during "The Mother," and I certainly appreciate that the story was kept simple. It's far too easy for writers to unnecessarily complicate an action movie with the intention of adding more depth. But here? Lopez is a violent mother with a bloody past who lives for one reason ... the protection of her daughter. Powdered film, just add water.

Lopez plays the central role just fine. Not over the top, and just grounded enough to be a competent threat. As a long-range fighter, she's convincing enough. Look into the scope, calm your heart rate, pull the trigger, and cut to a man being shot in the head.

But when Lopez gets into a rare hand-to-hand combat scene, the fight has more cuts than a Marvel film, and I quickly realized why The Mother was made a sniper. Thankfully, most of the time Lopez is killing goons, it's with her eye to a scope.

Everyone else in "The Mother" seems to have received the same memo Lopez did. They're all competent in their roles, which certainly helps keep the film serviceable.

I found my favorite part of the film came about halfway in, where The Mother is training Zoe to defend herself for months at her remote cabin in Alaska. There was just something about The Mother passing on her skills that I appreciated. It helps Zoe to see what danger she's in, and The Mother gets a chance to make up for lost time, even if it's over gun training, hunting, skinning animals, and setting traps.

The ending does tend to drag a bit and ends up being this movie's biggest weakness. "The Mother" would have benefited from a trim, taking the running time from 2 hours down to 90 minutes. With an action movie, I prefer a "less is more" length.

Perhaps the best summarization I can give for "The Mother" is this: I didn't hate it. I didn't love it. It was fine, and that's certainly an accomplishment given some of Netflix's more disappointing action movies.

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