Sunday 21 May 2023

Netflix And Chill: The Mother (2023)

Another in the long line of films that allow older film stars to show how easily they can still deliver kickass action, The Mother is an action vehicle for Jennifer Lopez. Some people may not enjoy her in the lead role, but I thought she was one of the least problematic things about it.

Lopez plays the titular character, never given her actual name (because why would anyone bother with that, considering the film is all about the overwhelming power of motherhood? urgh), a woman who was once a special operative in the U.S. military. We first meet her, heavily pregnant, in a safe house, being interrogated by the FBI about bad people she ended up being closely connected to. The safe house isn't so safe though, and it's up to Lopez to protect herself, and Agent William Cruise (Omari Hardwick), before anyone else can get along to help them. A little girl is then born prematurely, and a deal is made in which ma waives her parental rights in exchange for a scenario that should keep her daughter safe. When that safety is threatened, twelve years later, the mother has to reconnect with her daughter, teaching her some life-saving skills while taking out the bad guys who are out to get them.

With a cast that also includes Joseph Fiennes and Gael García Bernal as the main villains (both sorely wasted), Paul Raci as a standard "we served together, I'll help you any way I can" character, and Lucy Paez as Zoe, the daughter, The Mother could have been something pretty decent. Lopez actually manages to feel tough and determined enough to be a capable killer, and is helped by the fact that her encounters often have her using the environment or the element of surprise to counter the potential greater strength of her enemies. Most of the action scenes don't work though, and the characterisation is horribly weak, with people left to spout lines that often feel like the kind of thing you would hear in a parody.

Misha Green, Andrea Berloff, and Peter Craig are responsible for the awful script, and it's probably the weakest work any of them have ever done. None of the backstory makes any sense, the premise just keeps turning into something less and less believable, and nobody acts in a way that feels realistic (e.g. the armed security guard who finds a dead colleague and then proceeds to walk alone down some stairs and out through a door that allows them to then also be killed . . . instead of immediately raising an alarm and falling back to protect the big boss). Many films in this vein can be ridiculous and unbelievable, but it doesn't matter if they're put together with just a small amount of care to make it seem plausible while keeping it all entertaining enough.

Director Niki Caro also has to take a fair share of the blame, seemingly uninterested in the material (I don't blame her for that) and jumping from one limp set-piece to the next with an inability to make it exciting, cool, or engaging. Perhaps everyone involved assumed that viewers would automatically be invested because of the standard "a mother will always be there" coding, but that's not enough to make up for so many other weak elements, especially if you don't agree with that core message.

It looks okay, for the most part, at least it clocks in at under 2 hours (115 minutes, so it still drags in places, but I'll take positives where I can find them), and Lopez is still a good leading lady, even if she deserves much better than this. That's it though. In terms of the actual content of the film, the simple entertainment factor, this absolutely fails to be any good.


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