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"The Mother" 4K Review

 For nearly two weeks the Writer's Guild of America has been on strike against the studios protesting the egregiously poor pay for writers, especially TV show scribes, in this current world of streaming service focused content. While I generally have antipathy towards unions, they have legit grievances which I hope are addressed. 

That said, after watching Netflix's latest original Big Deal Movie with Big Name Star, if you told me that writers don't deserve a penny when they type up forgettable, formulaic time wasters like The Mother, you wouldn't get any argument from me. And when I looked up who was responsible for this dreck, I was genuinely shocked. More on that later. 

Jennifer Lopez stars as The Mother, the never-named protagonist (just like the lead of Christopher Nolan's career-worst Tenet) who we meet as she's being interrogated in a safe house by the FBI concerning her involvement, romantically and business-wise, with two Very Bad Guys involved in arms trafficking. As one red shirt agent blusters at her, you know that [PEW!], yep, he just got shot. The house is under attack by bad guys who kill all the agents but one, Cruise (Omari Hardwick), whose life Mother saves.

Trapped upstairs she improvises a bomb and hides in the shower where she is found by Adrian (Joseph Fiennes), who after some figurative mustache twirling stabs her in her very pregnant belly, which we see for the first time. Whoa! He is a Very Bad Guy. Then the bomb goes off, setting the bathroom on fire and burning him.

Mother wakes up in the hospital, her baby alive and unharmed, but the FBI SAIC (Edie Falco, playing the same character as she did in Avatar: The Way of Water) is unhappy with Mother getting her agents killed and after rattling off some Basil Exposition infodump to let us know Mother was an ace Army sniper during the war, correctly notes that the daughter would be a walking bullseye to Adrian, who was mysteriously removed before the authorities arrived, and Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), so she demands Mother sever her parental rights so the girl can go into Witness Relocation with an adopted family. 

She agrees, but demands Cruise make sure she has a good life and family and to let her know on her birthdays that she's still OK. She then travels to Alaska where old war buddy Jons (Paul Raci) sets her up with a cabin in the woods where she stays for 12 years with no mentioned employment until one day the birthday update arrives with word from Cruise that some of Hector's henchmen were busted in Mexico and they had a photo of her daughter, named Zoe (Lucy Paez), with them so they've apparently found her.

Mother and Cruise stake out the park where Zoe and her adoptive mother, Sonya (Yvonne Senat Jones), are with Mother on sniper overwatch duty and Hector's men do show up and grab Zoe despite Mother shooting several. After narrowly escaping the goons and the cops, Mother and Cruise head to Cuba to find henchmen Tarantula (Jesse Garcia), who was at the snatch, rough him up and find out where she's being held. A quick raid later, they rescue Zoe who lashes out at Mother, but is happy to see Cruise.

However, on the long trip back to her parents - why they have to drive many many hours when there are international airports within several hours of anywhere is another unexplained mystery - very pale Zoe looks at very J.Lo Mother and realizes that she's her birth mother, which Mother denies, leaving her with Cruise to finish returning her.

Before they get home their SUV is t-boned at an intersection in the middle of farmland by Adrian and his goons. How did they know he'd be there at that exact moment and why didn't Cruise see the approaching cars across the barren fields? Don't know. Luckily, Mother shows up on a motorcycle she conjured from somewhere and rescues Zoe, getting away from the scene. She takes her up to her Alaskan cabin for some melodrama and training montages to teach Zoe the Way of the Warrior for the inevitable Final Showdown with Adrian's army.

It's hard to know where to begin with such an empty and formulaic waste of time as The Mother. It's getting to be a stock snark that Netflix is burning tons of money making supposedly theatrical-caliber movies for their home subscribers only to have them come and go like a fast food meal. (Seriously, have you rewatched Red Notice or The Gray Man or 6 Underground? Do you even remember what those were about?) But the rote Mad Libs structure of the story which doesn't break any old ground much less new is all the less comprehensible when looking up the IMDBs of the writers.

As the end credits rolled, I noted that three different writers were credited - not co-writers, but three different people wrote, then rewrote, then re-rewrote this thing into something that would get a C-minus grade from a community college screenwriting course. 

So who were these hacks? The story and thus original screenwriter was Misha Green, creator of the much-hyped Lovecraft Country. Next at bat was Andrea Berloff, Oscar-nominated co-writer of Straight Out of Compton. Whut? Batting last to strike out was Peter Craig, just Oscar-nominated for co-writing Top Gun: Maverick (a bad nomination) and previous writer of The Batman, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2, and Mr. J.Lo's The Town

These are not obviously untalented writers, but if you'd told me ChatGPT had vomited this script up, I would've believed you. A major sticking point in the WGA strike negotiations is the use of AI to create work for revision or to use AI to revise human writing, but if this is what humans of renown are typing up, then perhaps we should let SkyNet do it. Perhaps it'd be more creative in it's regurgitation of previous writing.

Director Niki Caro, who's last film was the unneeded lackluster live-action remake of Mulan, must've had far better 2nd unit directors handling the action on that because in the John Wick era action flicks, the sequences in The Mother are haphazard, shaky-cam and edit-fu slop Hollyweird still can't outgrow. With no substantive story or characters, there's little to direct.

Lopez is one of the select group of actresses who can turn the hat trick of beauty, talent, and plausibility as an ass-kicker (along with Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron) and she looks great at 51 (when it was filmed), but again with nothing to play, she can only simmer with angst against Paez's bratty kid. Only Raci (Oscar nominated for The Sound of Metal) really makes something of nothing, but is helped by looking like an old boot.

On the audio-visual front, paying for the premium tier gets you Dolby Vision and Atmos sound and you're missing nothing much if you've got the general HD tier. Audio is nothing special with no atmospherics and the visuals only show off HDR mildly in a couple of spots. 

Blah in every way that's not J.Lo's slammin' bod, The Mother is as generic and forgettable as its title.

Score: 4/10. Skip it.


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