If we had a gold coin for every film trying to cash in on the assassin-coming-out-of-retirement craze 2014’s “John Wick” started, we’d have enough to buy the Continental by this point! Really by now, it’s more about the flavour and execution of the worked-to-death narrative than the actual story.
We’ve seen a comedic take on it with Bob Odenkirk’s “Nobody”, the mid-life crisis power fantasy of Denzel Washington’s “The Equalizer” films and this year we saw what can only be described as a decade-defining killathon of some of the best action choreography a generation can offer. All delivered by a man of many deeds, if not limited vocabulary, in “John Wick: Chapter 4”. It’s done, it’s over. To try to follow up after that act with something similar would be absolute suicide. It’s bound to draw comparisons to Reeves’ film…anywho, here’s Jennifer Lopez playing a highly-skilled assassin coming out to retirement!
Directed by Niki Caro, who was also responsible for 2020’s “Mulan”, Netflix’s “The Mother” sees JLo moving away from her romantic roots in films like “Marry Me” to try her hand at a more conventional action thriller premise. Will she hit the blood-soaked high notes? Or will it fall flat? Let’s find out!
After Jennifer Lopez’s character, simply referred to as the Mother fails to cut a deal with the FBI and leaves several agents killed by arms dealers Adrian Lovell and Hector Alvarez, she’s forced to make the most difficult choice of her life. She must abandon her daughter and go into exile, never to contact her again lest she puts her in danger. Years have passed and Lovell and Alvarez seek to settle the score by going after her 12-year-old daughter Zoe, forcing the former assassin out of retirement. After spending a lifetime taking lives, now she’ll stop at anything to save just one.
If you’ve been acquainted with the “Taken” films and the parent-revenge-fantasy lot, then “The Mother” feel right at home for you. At the mid-point of the film, it switches gears from a poor man’s attempt at a gritty action thriller and slows down to make room for the mother-daughter drama. While both acts of the film are undeniably uninspired, the second one at least allows for some moments of campy levity and melodramatic sappiness. Which is enjoyable in an ironic manner. If it’s a question of hearing long, stoic monologues of Jennifer Lopez threatening to kill people or hearing her snapping at her daughter for calling her the B-word, we pick the latter.
We’ll cut straight to it, the dialogue in this film is not good and the bar is set pretty low here. Characters have this weird habit of overexplaining out-of-place minor details in the film that could be mistaken as notes in the script. The moment we heard an FBI agent explain to the Mother the meaning of Zoe’s name, we were rolling our eyes to the back of our skulls. When the characters in this film aren’t in exposition mode, everyone here does their theatre class best to throw out as many action star one-liners as they can muster. Jennifer Lopez, of course, has the honour of filling the majority of the film’s quota.
As for the actual meat of the film, the action sequences are a mixed bag. Credit where credit is due, there are some mildly entertaining moments of improvisation from Lopez’s Mother. Some of them are bound to test the audiences’ credulity but it’s big and flashy enough to get us into the mood. Where it all falls apart very quickly though is when it comes up to the scenes requiring far more physicality from Lopez’s character, the melees and brawls. Lopez looks absolutely stunning for her age but it’s hard for her to not look winded when she’s forced to do the obligatory martial arts scene. Also, there’s an excruciating awful interrogation scene where we’re 95% sure that Jennifer Lopez was punching the air.
The best compliment we can pay Lopez here is that her performance in “The Mother” is not the worst of her career. Very few things in this world compare to the objective atrociousness of “The Boy Next Door” where she plays a high-school teacher caught in a messy relationship with a student being held back. Gross. Lopez simply doesn’t have the edge or the ferocity to sell us on the image of a hardened warrior returning to finish the job. Though, we could definitely see her playing a frustrated mother very easily.
Joseph Fiennes and Gael Garcia Bernal as the arms dealers are about as complex and interesting as a plank of wood. As for Lucy Paez as Zoe, the chemistry between the both of them feels forced and at no point do we as the audience resonate with her character. If HBO’s “The Last of Us” has taught us anything is that you can’t just throw a kid on-screen and claim that they’re the entire emotional core of your film. You. Have. To. Earn. It. The kid has to have personality and there are moments in the film we’re just begging for Zoe to be kidnapped again so the ball could get rolling.
Niki Caro’s “The Mother” attempts to bank on the sudden groundswell within the parent-child escort mission action subgenre but finds itself creatively bankrupt with little to say. Jennifer Lopez’s tenacity as an actor is commendable and that is the only virtue of note in this entire film. For any curious souls tempted to see what JLo would be like in a straight-laced action thriller, then “The Mother” may contain enough novelty to warrant a watch. For everyone else, stay clear.
You can now catch “The Mother” on Netflix today!
Follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Telegram for more updates and breaking news.
Netflix's "The Mother" Review
Niki Caro's "The Mother" attempts to bank on the sudden groundswell within the parent-child escort mission action subgenre but finds itself creatively bankrupt with little to say. Jennifer Lopez's tenacity as an actor is commendable and that is the only virtue of note in this entire film. For any curious souls tempted to see what JLo would be like in a straight-laced action thriller, then "The Mother" may contain enough novelty to warrant a watch. For everyone else, stay clear.
- Netflix's "The Mother" Review