While fleeing from dangerous assailants, an assassin comes out of hiding to protect her daughter she left earlier in life.
I tried to approach Niki Caro’s “The Mother” with an open mind, I really did. I knew there would be little in the way of originality where this actioner was concerned but that certainly hasn’t prevented other copycat productions from being effective. And to be sure, there are moments here when the pieces fall together, and this feature is just as good as any other similarly budgeted movie. However, the self-serious tone affected by its star throughout was something I just couldn’t get past. In the title role, Jennifer Lopez just can’t get out of her own way to allow herself or the viewer to have any fun. No, she approaches this as if it were Shakespeare when what is needed all along is her tongue planted firmly in cheek.
As a tough-as-nails former special forces assassin, Lopez glowers throughout as if she’s been told that showing any emotion might crack her face. Seeking a deal so that she can come in from out the cold, things go sideways when old allies – Adrian (Joseph Fiennes) and Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) – come out of the woodwork to ensure she doesn’t spill the tea. Wouldn’t you know it, the veteran is pregnant, and somehow, she and her unborn child survive being stabbed in the stomach. Though reticent to do so, she allows her daughter to be put with a foster family, knowing she’ll be safer growing up in the ‘burbs.
Jump ahead 12 years and wouldn’t you know it, the location of the girl, Zoe (Lucy Perez), has been leaked and the bad guys come calling, kidnapping her in the hopes it will bring their former compatriot out of hiding. Sure enough, Mother – as she’s referred to in the press notes – comes calling with FBI agent Cruise (Omari Hardwick) in tow and much mayhem ensues as they extract her daughter. This should be the end of the story, but in this era of cinematic bloat, that’s not to be. Though mother and Zoe retreat to wilds of Alaska, Adrian – revealed to be the girl’s father- tracks them down.
Caro knows how to choreograph a decent action sequence and she tries her best to keep us intrigued with moments that are more grounded in reality than other films of this ilk. However, everything revolves around Lopez and she is the weak link. Each dramatic choice she makes is obvious, each a “look-at-me” decision that ensures she’s the focus of every scene she’s in. It’s a selfish approach and she simply doesn’t have the chops to pull it off. Not only does she give a one-note performance, but it’s off-key as well.