She hasn’t lived an easy life.
She hasn’t always made the best choices.
But her life and her choices have shaped her into the skilled sharpshooter and soldier she became. They’ve also led her to where she is right now: alone in a tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere with a letter in her hand and another choice to make
Some 12 years back, she was probably at her lowest point. She’d just come out of having affairs with two very bad men named Adrian and Hector. She was pregnant by one of them and surrounded by mostly belligerent FBI agents at a safehouse. (One was nice. He offered her water.) They only knew her as “The Mother,” and she was fine with that. For she had a dark story of illegal arms deals, human trafficking and murder to share. And the less the agents knew about her, the better.
But The Mother didn’t get far into her story before Adrian’s thugs—or maybe they were Hector’s men—hit the little safe house. They ripped into the place with military precision and slaughtered the agents as quickly as the men could draw their weapons.
Only she and a single agent survived—the nice one. And that was because of her quick wits and savvy choices.
The Mother’s child, a daughter, was born just after that brutal firefight. But she was compelled to give her up for adoption. It was the only way to assure the girl’s safety.
So she made a deal with Agent Cruise, the FBI agent whose life she saved. He agreed to keep tabs on the girl. And he promised to send a message if the girl was ever in danger. Only Cruise knew where The Mother was hiding. Only Cruise ever mailed her there.
Today she received a letter. And today The Mother has another choice to make. Will she stay hidden away where she is? Or will she go to the girl—an innocent who has never known her—and help her with all the skills acquired through years of hard living and difficult choices?
A mother can tell you, sometimes there is no choice.
The story’s protagonist made an adoption plan for her daughter, Zoe. She believed that was the only way to insure her anonymity and safety. And, indeed, Zoe now appears to be part of a solid family. But when Hector and Adrian eventually discover the young girl’s identity, that forces the biological mom and daughter together.
The Mother isn’t exactly a model parent, but she does work tirelessly to protect Zoe. And she helps train the girl to take care of herself in dangerous situations. As painful and difficult as their pairing is (for both of them) they eventually grow to care for each other, their mutual affection growing throughout the story. “These have been the best months of my life,” The Mother tells Zoe by the end of their time together.
Zoe’s adoptive mom can’t blaze away at baddies to protect her daughter, but she is no less ferocious and protective. She fights for Zoe in the moment of the kidnapping. And she does whatever she can with authorities to assure her daughter’s safe return.
Ultimately, The Mother walks away with the knowledge that her child is part of a secure and loving family.
When The Mother gets to Alaska, she meets with a former military acquaintance who volunteers to help her adjust to her new world. However, upon noting changes in her demeaner, he asks: “You find god or something?” The Mother assures her that she hasn’t.
We see a statue depicting an angel carrying a cross.
In flashback, The Mother makes note of the fact that as she was coming out of the U.S. military, she chose to have affairs with two different men as a means of connecting their corrupt international dealings and assuring her future. Even she seemed to be unsure of which man fathered her child.
Hector grabs The Mother angrily and threatens to torture her sexually, “with no safe word.” He then talks of his arousal at the idea of this torment. One of Hector’s thugs kidnaps Zoe. And he tells The Mother that Hector plans to sexually abuse her. The Mother discovers a large shipping container filled with children and women being sent off to a human trafficking ring.
As you might have gathered by now if you’ve seen the trailers for this Netflix actioner, The Mother is a very intense film full of heavy military-style thumping and bloody shooting. Thugs and agents are shot in the head and body. An explosion badly burns a man’s face and sets a building on fire. Men are also chased, beaten, crushed by vehicles, sent flying by explosive mines and stabbed. A man’s gaping abdomen wound is pasted together with superglue.
The Mother unleashes her sniping skills on numerous occasions, usually with explosive, high-caliber headshots that splash blood on walls and windows. She also shoots deer and wolves in the woods near her Alaskan cabin. Upon capturing a thug with important information, The Mother beats the man repeatedly with barbed wire-wrapped fists. She also waterboards the guy and eventually kicks him over in anger. Someone’s neck gets impaled on a shard of glass.
The Mother teaches 12-year-old Zoe how to attack with a sniper rifle, a shot gun, a handgun and a knife. The girl eventually applies those practiced skills. She shoots someone with a shotgun, and she stabs a man with a knife hidden up her sleeve. But none of her attacks are lethal. Zoe is also dragged around and manhandled repeatedly by large men. And she’s bitten by a young wolf.
The Mother gets pounded and beaten misogynistically. Her face is bloodied and bruised. She’s stabbed in the stomach while pregnant. After one fall, her shoulder is dislocated, and she must painfully force it back into joint by ramming it up against a large rock.
The script includes two f-words, along with multiple uses of “b–ch” and “a–hole.”
Hector has bottles of booze scattered around his room. One of his thugs snorts cocaine.
The Mother smokes cigarettes. And when Zoe attempts to pick up that habit, The Mother slaps the cigarette out of her hand, telling her not to do it.
The Mother does whatever it takes in the spur of the moment to achieve her goals. That includes stealing a motorcycle and hitting an innocent man in the face with a helmet before stealing his car.
They say you should never get between a mother and her cubs. And that’s especially true if that angry mamma can also hit you from 1500 meters away with a bullet from an M-24 sniper rifle.
That’s the thrust of The Mother, a film that’s reminiscent of many past actioners and one that stars Jennifer Lopez in the role of the tough-as-nails mommy at its core.
In fact, this pic feels a bit like two action movies in one. The first half is mostly blazing-fast combat that cements the protagonist’s skillset bona fides. The second half is about a mother and her young daughter bonding and building to a slam-bam movie finish.
Over the top? Of course. That said, it’s also a taut story that emphasizes unconditional love and self-sacrifice. It also makes some nice statements about adoption.
Of course, I can’t let you go without circling back to my opening statement about a mom who can effectively splash someone’s brains on the back wall from a great distance. Because that is what will spatter your screen throughout this film. Bloody headshots. Slashed jugular gushes. Pregnant belly stabs. Flesh-crisping explosions. Gaping wounds. It’s all here and more. Add in a several obscene language potshots, and this pic’s R rating is well merited.
I should also note that if you show this flick to the cubs, well, Mom will justifiably growl.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.