MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 12, 2013: THE MOTHER
Jennifer Lopez takes the concept of the “mama bear” and ratchets it up several notches to “raging grizzly mom” in Niki Caro’s tense action thriller The Mother. Lopez’s unnamed sniper/assassin mows down bad guys without flinching — or remorse — as she puts everything on the line to save the daughter she reluctantly gave up at birth to protect her from the evildoers who will stop at nothing to wreak their revenge.
What they’re seeking revenge for doesn’t really matter (something about a personal betrayal and an arms-smuggling deal gone awry?) — what matters is that they’re gunning for Lopez, and they know that they can get to her through 12-year-old Zoe (Lucy Paez), who’s been living safely with a foster family ever since Lopez’s character was convinced that it was the safest choice for her baby. She’s been living off the grid, staying sharp and biding her time, and she’s ready when the worst finally happens.
The Mother isn’t the first thriller about a hardened killer made vulnerable by their relationship with a child (see: Leon: The Professional). Nor is it the first about a parent with impossibly high expectations training their child in lethal skills amid the frozen wilderness (see: Hanna). But it’s the first adult action movie directed by New Zealander Niki Caro (based on a screenplay by Andrea Berloff and Misha Green, working with Peter Craig from a story by Green). And it was produced by Lopez, who is unquestionably the center of the movie and is in full kick-ass mode. In other words, it’s got some pretty solid feminist bona fides.
The production is pretty slick, too, with stark, wintry action set pieces, tense chases, and Joseph Fiennes’ gleefully evil, scenery-chewing villain. Like Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Old Guard, The Mother is a satisfyingly escapist couple of hours that have the added bonus of being made by — and starring — strong women. And who doesn’t want more of that? — Betsy Bozdech
Team #MOTW’s comments:
Loren King As a certified badass, Jennifer Lopez carries the high octane action/adventure “The Mother” with a bravura performance. Just within the first five minutes, her skilled assassin takes out several hitmen; patches up the FBI agent who was kind to her; ignites a deadly fire; and suffers a horrible stabbing to her pregnant belly. The child survives but because of the large target on her back, she’s forced to surrender her daughter to a loving adoptive family. Fast forward 12 years and the vengeful bad guys have kidnapped her daughter, forcing The Mother out of her Alaska hideaway for a wild rescue and revenge thriller. From Cuba where she races through the streets, first in a vintage car and then on a motorbike, to dispatch her enemies and rescue the girl to a bullet-riddled drive in a pickup truck back to Alaska, director Niki Caro keeps even incredulous stunts grounded in the fates of her characters. It’s American Sniper meets Stella Dallas as Lopez, sporting some stylish winter gear, pulls out all the stops to keep her daughter alive and bring her home.
Nell Minow: Jennifer Lopez shows us the tender heart inside the ultra-tough exterior in sn intense story that lets her show off her skills as a full-on action star and as an actor. There are a lot of people who can play tough action heroes of few words, but not many who can match her ability to depict the way her fierce spirit is grounded in her dedication to protect her daughter even if it means giving her up.
Sherin Nicole Assassin movies are my vice. If the assassin is a woman, you’ve got me. If she’s a woman of color, I want to befriend the filmmakers. After a teaser that promised a deadly hit woman, who comes out of hiding to protect her daughter, I leaped to watch The Mother. Jennifer Lopez plays the unnamed lead with an emotional numbness that could only come from trauma. The horrors of her past are so evident in her expressions and body language, that we lean in, wanting to know more. As her counterpart, Omari Hardwick is a tough but tender FBI agent who we suspect might turn romantic. While her baby girl, Zoe (Lucy Paez), is a bright tween living an average life with her adoptive parents—just like her mother bargained for. The Mother is a terse and pointedly violent thriller that seeks to combine a remorseless crime drama with a mother-daughter saga. It nearly works but there are gaps in the story, as though long sequences are missing, making for a movie that is as emotionally distant as its lead.
Jamie Broadnax Jennifer Lopez excites us in this genre thriller a about woman willing to do whatever it takes to protect her daughter from an evil militia of kidnappers. While the second act of the film does come with its challenges of pacing issues, the third act picks us up where we left off at the beginning filled with action, excellent fight choreography and a compelling story that pulls at your heartstrings. There are some incredible metaphors the film dives into as it relates to matriarchal relationships and overall it’s a fun ride for anyone just willing to watch a good popcorn action flick.
Leslie Combemale With the critically acclaimed Whale Rider and fan favorite Mulan under her belt, Niki Caro has had experience centering powerful women in her films, and of course The Mother is no exception. It may be true that the story is preposterously far fetched, but that had better not the reason for any negative press. After all, how believable is Die Hard or, for that matter, the recent John Wick: Chapter 4? It’s always been perfectly acceptable for male actors to shoot dozens of baddies. Let’s embrace JLo doing the same with equal enthusiasm. As we never learn a proper name, only what drives the lead character, The Mother fits squarely in the “Man With No Name” antihero genre. Highly entertaining and well-shot, the film adds something sorely needed to action cinema by featuring a morally ambiguous woman choosing to make a stand and seek vengeance without the ubiquitous sexual violation so often a part of those stories. No kidding, that’s something to celebrate. Also appreciated in The Mother, for once the lead female character in an action film is not stripped down to her underwear for 90% of her screentime. That’s one more case of “you don’t notice what’s been missing until you see it onscreen.” Think of that as a Mother’s Day present from Niki Caro and Jennifer Lopez.
Jennifer Merin The Mother is a high velocity action thriller with a feminist filmmaker pedigree. Niki Caro directs the fast paced screenplay by Andrea Berloff, Misha Green and Peter Craig, based on a story by Misha Green. Jennifer Lopez, who coproduced the movie, stars as ‘The Mother,’ a former super spy and military assassin whose life is threatened by a very bad man who is seeking revenge for a high stakes deal that went south. The Mother (the character’s mane is never revealed) is determined to save the teenage girl she birthed years ago and reluctantly gave over to a foster family for the child’s protection from the evil revengeful gangster who is determined to kill both mother and daughter. Read full review.
Nikki Fowler: The Mother tries repeatedly but somewhat fails at being a strong dramatic action movie despite having many action sequences and some scenic US snow filled mountainous and colorful Cuban landscapes, alongside some great production and popular music tracks. The start of the story is a bit traumatizing with Jennifer Lopez as ‘The Mother’ being stabbed in the stomach while she’s pregnant. From there, we follow her emotionally traumatizing journey in having to give up her child to foster care for the baby girls safety, only to step back into the child’s life 12 years later when her own past life as an assassin catches up with her and puts her, and her estranged daughter, at risk. Read full review.
Liz Whittemore The Mother thrives on its highly choreographed and undeniably thrilling action sequences. The film is yet another reminder that Jennifer Lopez is a bonafide movie star. Not since Enough have we seen her in such a physical role. She owns every frame. The script perfectly captures a mother’s unconditional love for her children and intentionally leans away from the female lead’s need to be rescued by a male counterpoint. Confidently a feminist perspective in action without the overt sexualization of the star.
Cate Marquis Jennifer Lopez plays Thr Mother, a woman who is as far from the image of the cookie-baking nurturer the title might bring to mind as one can get. No, this woman is one tough cookie who is a crack-shot and also in possession of an impressive “certain set of skills,” which she uses regularly in The Mother, an action thriller with a femme slant from director Niki Caro. Lopez’s character was forced to give up her newborn daughter to a foster family and go into hiding, after the illegal arms dealers she once worked for, came after her when she tried to go to the FBI to give evidence against them. Years later, the baddies who were pursuing her are now going after her now-teenage daughter, and Mom’s not having it. There isn’t much reality in this globetrotting tale but there is a lot of rapid-fire action and pulse-pounding chases in the women-led action thriller The Mother.
Title: The Mother
Director: Niki Caro
Release Date: May 12, 2023
Running Time: 115 minutes
Screenwriters: Andrea Berloff, Peter Craig, Misha Green
Distribution Company: Netflix
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Jamie Broadnax, Leslie Combemale, Nikki Fowler, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore
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Edited by Jennifer Merin