Netflixable? J. Lo Goes Commando — “The Mother”

In action pictures, “over the top” is rarely a bad thing. A little “ludicrous” is a given.

But even by those grade-on-the-curve standards, “The Mother,” the new Jennifer Lopez thriller about an assassin trying to protect the daughter she never knew, is a bit much.

Screenwriters Misha Green, Andrea Berloff and Peter Craig mash up the George Clooney assassin-laying-low tale “The American” with the Saoirse Ronan “girl trained to be an assassin” blood on the snow epic “Hanna,” because “Hey — one came out in 2010, the other in 2011, who’ll remember them?”

Bring in the live-action “Mulan” director Niki Caro, her favorite editor and a bunch of stunt-folk and stylists and makeup specialists and we’ll make J Lo the new Jason Bourne.

But even though Lopez is in fighting trim and can certainly handle fight choreography, even though the editing covers up some of the stunt-doubling, and covering her in a motorcycle helmet helps at other times, it’s hard to buy into all the half-speed haymakers her character throws at the legions of villains she dispatches here.

And the “ludicrous” doesn’t stop there.

We meet the unnamed “Mother” in a safe house, which she insists is “NOT safe,” right up to the moment her chief FBI protector (Omari Hardwick) has to admit she’s right.

She’s been undercover, working both sides of an arms deal, sleeping with both villains she’s tied to. When the slaughter begins, she has the presence of mind to duck, the “particular skills” to DIY triage Agent Cruise’s (HAH!) wounds, and build a bomb out of what she finds under the bathroom sink.

“Curses,” the murderous operator Adrian (Joseph Fiennes) almost mutters, stabbing her in the gut. “BOOM!” Foiled again!

And look at that. The reason they named the movie “The Mother” is because our undercover agent/sharp-shooter is very pregnant.

No, she can’t keep the baby, because two different mass murderers are after her. No, she can’t go underground in the Lower 48. Let’s ship this dish off to Alaska where she won’t stand out — oh no — and her old comrade (Paul Raci) can help her keep her secret.

But 12 years later, it all comes back. Adrian returns to haunt her. Hector the Cuban gun runner (Gael García Bernal) grabs the now tweenage girl (Lucy Paez). Now “The Mother” without any real mothering experience has to do what she does best to free her child and rid the human race of a lot of bad hombres and master villain minions in the process.

The first idiotic thing in the movie is the girl-napping. Cruise brings The Mother to Cincinatti to watch over her child, sets her up with a sniper rifle, just so she can witness a kidnapping she can’t shoot her way into preventing?


She’s off to Havana, to confront her old lover/nemesis Hector in a half-ruined mansion stuffed with more candles than “Interview with the Vampire.”

Freeing the girl isn’t the whole “mission,” not in The Mother’s mind. She’s got to prepare her for her endangered future. Back to Alaska we go, because it’s “Hanna” time, a chance to learn the cold-hearted laws of nature and the cold-blooded nature of sniping and knife fighting. In the snow.

“You’re driving!”

“I’m 12!

Lopez is a good enough actress to make her character interesting and somewhat plausible. Not “barbed wire wrapped around a fist” plausible. But when she makes a threat, you believe it.

“They can have a nice long look at me while I kill them every last one of them.”

The action beats — chases through Cuba (Gran Canaria, The Canary Islands), on snowmobiles in Alaska (British Columbia) — are expertly handled.

But this script couldn’t surprise a newborn babe watching her first action pic. Ham-handed foreshadowing, retrofitted with a lot of “I won’t shoot wolves” sensitivities, Mother bickering with Daughter over the “violence” that puts every morsel of food you eat on the table — even “tofu” and “cashews.”

No, she didn’t “murder” Bambi. The deer “was a stag. Bambi’s father.” And no, his carcas is hanging up for dressing. This is rabbit we’re eating.


Yeah, that’s kind of funny, but that’s pretty much it for wit in this cut-and-paste collection of cliches, action pic tropes and recycled Bond beats.

Yes, Hollywood writers are on strike. No, let’s not base the outcome of that labor stoppage on a mediocre mess mashed-up from others’ scripts like this.

“The Mother” is watchable, here and there. Decently acted. Over-the-top, but not far enough over it to make it fun. And “ludricrous?” Maybe half the situations that put the daughter in screaming jeopardy or that keep The Mother alive until the next scene have nothing logical backing them up.

Much like the lightweight punches our fit-and-50something movie star throws in scene after silly scene.

Rating: R, violence

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Omari Hardwick, Gael García Bernal, Paul Raci, Lucy Paez and Joseph Fiennes.

Credits: Directed by Niki Caro, scripted by Misha Green, Andrea Berloff and Peter Craig. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:55


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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