Can you be a badass sniper/survivalist/action hero and still have flawless skin? Well, if that particular badass is played by Jennifer Lopez, the answer is hell yeah!
In The Mother — which has to be the 88th movie this century to be given that title (or some variation of it) — J.Lo is, according to the credits, The Mother. She’s a trained soldier and arms dealer who becomes an FBI informant when she gets pregnant and discovers her two partners/possible baby daddies (Joseph Fiennes, Gael Garcia Bernal) have been dabbling in human trafficking. After a safe-house ambush leaves a bunch of FBI agents dead — except for one (Power kingpin Omari Hardwick) The Mother saves — and our injured heroine goes into labor, an FBI agent (Edie Falco) informs her she has to give up the kid and vanish.
Mommy heads to the snowy mountains of Alaska, where she spends a dozen years being a woodswoman killing moose and shit. She comes out of hiding when that agent she saved informs her she has to protect her preteen offspring (Lucy Paez), now that the daddies/baddies know that she exists.
After doing a couple of silly-ass rom-coms for Peacock and Amazon Prime, star/producer Lopez comes to Netflix to do a silly-ass actioner. (I mean, where else?) She’s invited other women to join her on this journey, including director Niki Caro (who did the live-action Mulan) and screenwriters Misha Green (Lovecraft Country) and Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton). They’re all there to aid in Lopez’s mission of showing she’s available to kick ass anytime on-screen. But anyone who’s seen Out Of Sight (which came out 25 years ago this summer, BTW) already knows that Lopez can be a warrior who exudes both ferociousness and foxiness. Now that she’s a thrice-divorced mother of two, Mother is Lopez letting y’all know she now has mama-grizzly energy.
It’s too bad the story is maddeningly flimsy. Lopez and Hardwick’s characters go back and forth to different locales (apart from their obvious chemistry — and the brief looks they steal when the other is changing — these two gorgeous performers appear in yet another movie where THEY DON’T SMASH!) to go up against villains, mostly there to give off oily, creepy vibes, who suddenly find out at the same time they’re deadbeat dads. Bernal is wasted in his brief role, basically doing the horny-nemesis act Javier Bardem did in Skyfall. As for Fiennes — let’s just say Lopez had more palpable heat on-screen with his big bro Ralph in Maid in Manhattan.
It’s unfortunate how everything — from the story to the visuals — is so freakin’ murky. I don’t know if it was just the screening I attended, but I could barely make out what the hell was going on. (New Zealand cinematographer Ben Seresin may want to leave this title off his IMDb page.) If there’s one thing that consistently stays clear and glowing, it’s Lopez’s face. Whether she’s chasing down a low-life in Mexico or teaching her kid how to survive in the wilderness (those scenes with Lopez and a bratty Paez are predictably awkward), Lopez stays a vision of clean-skinned beauty — even when she’s ready to kill a bunch of goons. I’m surprised no one thought about calling up Pond’s to see if they could do a marketing tie-in. At my screening, they passed out a “survival kit” that included a lighter, a flashlight and bandages. I’m kinda upset they didn’t throw in some skin cream.
Though an empty, clunky experience, The Mother could still entertain those who’ve always wanted to see a “You Are the Father” episode of Maury descend into explosions, gunplay, and dead bodies all over the gotdamn place.
“The Mother” is on Netflix Friday.