Just in time for Mother’s Day, it’s THE MOTHER (2023), a new action thriller which just premiered on Netflix that stars Jennifer Lopez as an assassin who also happens to be a mother and who will do anything to protect her 12-year-old daughter from the deadly thugs who are trying to kill her.
It should. Because recently there has been a slew of action movies featuring super deadly female assassins, often protecting a child from harm, films like LOU (2022), GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (2021), and KATE (2021) to name just a few. It’s a formula that’s wearing thin.
THE MOTHER, which is rated R and goes heavy with the violence, gets off to a good start, then sinks into a series of scenes that strain credibility, before eventually getting much better towards the end.
The movie opens with Jennifer Lopez’s character, who remains nameless throughout the movie, being questioned by F.B.I. agents who are trying to get her to give them information about a dangerous criminal, while promising her protection for doing so. She scoffs at this suggestion, saying that no one can protect her, and seconds later she’s proven correct, as snipers and assassins move in to kill her. She fights her way out of it, but the man who wants to kill her, Adrian (Joseph Fiennes) confronts her first, and when he sees that she is pregnant, violently stabs her in the belly. It’s a jarring opening scene.
Of course, she survives, as does the baby; hence, she becomes “the mother.” She agrees to give up her daughter for adoption in order to protect her, since Adrian also survived and is still hell bent on revenge. She disappears into the wilds of Alaska, until twelve years later, she learns that Adrian has discovered the whereabouts of her daughter Zoe (Lucy Paez), who’s now 12. She stakes out Zoe’s new family and watches her daughter, until Adrian makes his move. At that point, she grabs Zoe and takes her to Alaska where she plans to train her to survive, while waiting for Adrian to eventually find her.
THE MOTHER is a standard actioner with not much going for it until assassin mom takes her daughter Zoe to Alaska and trains her, because it’s in these sequences where Jennifer Lopez and young Lucy Paez share some onscreen chemistry, and the film pivots from unbelievable action movie to a somewhat heartfelt drama. Young Paez gives the best performance in the film, hands down. Her expressions, her emotions. She is a twelve-year-old who at first hates this woman who is her real mother and everything she stands for, but her feelings change as they grow close.
It’s also a decent performance by Lopez. Early on, she’s simply the emotionless assassin. Ho hum. But later in the scenes with her daughter Zoe, her character grows, and she becomes more watchable. In terms of believability, while the action scenes themselves strain credibility— every time there’s a fight, all the bad guys fall while Lopez escapes unscathed—, Lopez looks the part, and her performance is believable. She’s lean and mean, and I had no problem she could kick multiple people’s butts at the same time, but the sequences themselves were often over the top.
Joseph Fiennes, a fine actor, doesn’t do a whole lot here as evil bad guy Adrian. He’s not really a memorable villain. And Omari Hardwick has the thankless role of the F.B.I. agent who unlike mommy assassin gets shot, stabbed, and beaten up nearly every action sequence he appears in. It’s almost laughable.
THE MOTHER was directed by Niki Caro. The action sequences are slick and stylish, but the film’s best parts are in its latter half in Alaska, featuring scenes between mother and daughter. This is when the film is at its best. There’s also some neat sequences featuring wolves which factor thematically into the film.
The screenplay by Misha Green, Andrea Berloff, and Peter Craig like the rest of the movie works best when dealing with mother and daughter. The rest is all rather flat and uninspiring, and not very believable. Craig also worked on the screenplays for THE BATMAN (2022), and THE TOWN (2010), one of my favorite movies with Ben Affleck, who directed, who of course is Jennifer Lopez’ husband. Speaking of Affleck, both he and Lopez had movies released on the same weekend, as Affleck’s movie HYPNOTIC (2023) also just came out. I liked THE MOTHER better than HYPNOTIC.
I found the first half of THE MOTHER pretty standard and unimpressive, but it gets better, thanks largely to a neat performance by young Lucy Paez, as she and Jennifer Lopez lift the second half of the film to a much more satisfying final act.
I give it two and a half stars.
Four stars – Perfect, Top of the line
Three and a half stars- Excellent
Three stars – Very Good
Two and a half stars – Good
Two Stars – Fair
One and a half stars – Pretty Weak
One star- Poor
Zero stars – Awful