While it’s certainly great to see Jennifer Lopez headline an action film again, The Mother is painfully boring, and haphazardly edited and written.
Jennifer Lopez was born to star in an action film and has proven herself to hold her own in films like Anaconda, Enough, Parker, and Lila & Eve. However, none of those films have been remotely good, putting a highly capable actress in movies with a mediocre screenplay and poorly shot action scenes. Directed by Niki Caro, The Mother could’ve been the one that broke the streak of bad J-Lo action flicks but is instead the same as her previous efforts: poorly written, haphazardly edited, and painfully dull.
Like in Caro’s previous film, Mulan, every action scene is edited to shreds. There isn’t a shot held for more than 0.5 seconds, making every scene a headache-inducing nightmare. It’s even worse when they all have good ideas: a snowmobile chase in the heart of Alaska, a foot chase on the streets of Havana, a parking-lot sniper fight, a motorcycle gunfight in the middle of a countryside road and, finally, a one-on-one fistfight in the deep snow. These scenes had massive potential and could have been the movie’s highlight if the editing hadn’t been so hyperactive. What’s the point of crafting these elaborate setpieces if the audience can’t see a damn thing? This has plagued most modern action films since Paul Greengrass introduced the world to rapid editing techniques in The Bourne Supremacy. Action movies have unfortunately taken a nosedive because of this.
The final fight scene between the film’s titular (and unnamed) Mother (Lopez) and Adrian Lovell (Joseph Fiennes) is a particular head-scratcher. Still, even confrontation sequences that aren’t necessarily fighting are edited to the point of nausea. One between The Mother and arms dealer Héctor Álvarez (Gael García Bernal) is the worst offender of this technique and perhaps the most unintentionally hilarious sequence of the year.
Ben Seresin’s cinematography also doesn’t help sell the movie’s look, which feels particularly odd that such a talented director of photography would even churn out something like this. I mean, this is the guy that helped craft Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain, which, ten years later, remains Bay’s magnum opus with Bad Boys II. In The Mother, he blends fisheye with bokeh, and the results are amazingly inane and ugly-looking.
It also doesn’t help that the plot is an absolute head-scratcher and amazingly uninspired. In every action movie that centers on a kidnapping, which is the case with The Mother, the unwritten rule is that the abducted character can only get kidnapped once. If they get kidnapped more than once, it’s a sign of a poorly-written screenplay. Well, you’ll be glad to learn that the abducted gets kidnapped more than once throughout the runtime, because more than one antagonist is looking after Zoe (Lucy Paez), the daughter of The Mother, who was placed under the FBI’s protection after Lovell raids a safe house. Lovell and Álvarez are human traffickers trying to kill The Mother after she discovers their secret while being their business partners. She develops a strong friendship with FBI agent William Cruise (Omari Hardwick), who keeps her updated as she lives a secluded life in Alaska, with her friend Jons (Paul Raci) as her only point of contact.
Álvarez kidnaps Zoe, which sets a chain of events in motion that will lead to Zoe’s second kidnapping under the hands of Lovell after she inexplicably decides to do something (you’ll have to discover what it is on your own) that could make you want to scream at your TV for how nonsensical it is. I have no patience for movies that think it’s exciting for the same character to be abducted multiple times because it’s the only thing they have going for. This treats their audiences like they can’t want more out of these movies, which feels deeply insulting to their intelligence. And it doesn’t help that the performances aren’t good: Fiennes and García Bernal are completely wasted as the main antagonists, while Hardwick, Raci, and Paez have no development.
The only good performer in The Mother is Lopez, who seems to care about the material more than anyone else. She genuinely puts her heart and soul into the movie and has some pretty impressive moments of badassery, even if rough editing techniques hamper them. The parking lot sniper fight is the movie’s highlight with how Lopez plays the scene, even if it is hampered by risible editing. It’s a shame because Lopez more than deserves a legitimately good action movie, but she’s not picking up the right projects.
You can see the potential in The Mother as it progresses, but it falters on every occasion it has the chance to be somewhat watchable. Hopefully, Lopez will star in a movie that will showcase her action talents. After so many years in Hollywood, she deserves it.
The Mother is now streaming globally on Netflix.