‘The Mother’: Jennifer Lopez can do it all — except play a convincing mercenary

Her heroics, as an expert operative showing her daughter how to kill, strain credulity in dumb Netflix action movie.

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A former Army sniper (Jennifer Lopez) and her daughter (Lucy Paez) hide out in Alaska and await an attack by hitmen in “The Mother.”

A former Army sniper (Jennifer Lopez) and her daughter (Lucy Paez) hide out in Alaska and await an attack by hitmen in “The Mother.”

Netflix

I’m not going to spoil the epilogue in the slick but trashy and quite dumb Jennifer Lopez action movie “The Mother,” but I will say it’s so insanely off the rails, so bat-bleep crazy that I almost want you to watch “The Mother” just so you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Almost.

Lopez has always been a force as a physical performer. And she has shown zero trace of slowing down in recent films such as “Hustlers” and “Shotgun Wedding.”

But she stretches credulity here as a former Army sniper in Afghanistan who turned to mercenary work after leaving the military and was forced to go into hiding after becoming a government witness and singlehandedly taking down a phalanx of hitmen who tried to take her out. And that’s just the lead-up to the real action!

‘The Mother’

Untitled

Netflix presents a film directed by Niki Caro and written by Misha Green, Andrea Berloff and Peter Craig. Running time: 117 minutes. Rated R (for violence, some language and brief drug use). Now available on Netflix.

“The Mother” opens in an FBI safe house in Linton, Indiana, where Lopez’ character, who is never named so we’re stuck calling her The Mother, is being questioned by a team of agents led by Omari Hardwick’s tough but sympathetic William Cruise. The Mother is being held in protective custody while giving up the goods on two ruthless arms dealers with whom she was recently involved with in more ways than one: Hector Álvarez (Gael García Bernal) and Adrian Lovell (Joseph Fiennes). That’s right: The Mother is pregnant, and one of those two notorious international criminals is the father. What a pickle.

The Mother keeps telling the agents this house is anything but safe, but they brush off her warnings—until shots ring out and a team of hitmen, led by Lovell, come storming in. With the house about to go up in flames, The Mother kills all the henchmen, saves William’s life, survives a stab wound and wakes up in the hospital after giving birth. Enter Edie Falco’s Special Agent Williams, who has The Mother sign away her parental rights. It’s the only way to protect the child from the evil Lovell and a whole new group of henchmen who have been waiting for their moment after graduating from Henchmen Class.

Cut to Tlingit Bay, Alaska, where The Mother takes up residence in a remote cabin and remains off the grid for 12 years, keeping herself in peak physical shape and making meaningful eye contact with wolves while hunting her own food and spending her spare time, I don’t know, brooding? When William receives intel indicating Lovell has uncovered the girl’s identity, he makes good on his promise to The Mother to let her know if the child, Zoe, is ever in danger.

Time now for one of the expertly staged and exciting but absolutely nuts action sequences in “The Mother,” in this case, Lovell’s hitmen crashing an outdoor birthday party in broad daylight to kidnap Zoe (Lucy Paez), which leads to a chaotic shootout and a wild chase scene in a parking garage. Somehow, the kidnappers get away and whisk Zoe to Cuba, where The Mother got mixed up in all that arms-dealing craziness all those years ago. Once The Mother and William arrive in Cuba, they capture one of Lovell’s men and hold him prisoner, with The Mother uses torture tactics (“You learn things in the service,” says The Mother with a shrug) to get the snarling guy to give up Zoe’s whereabouts.

After a surreal encounter with Gael García’s Bernal’s Hector that plays out like something from an Oliver Stone movie—the man has clearly lost his marbles and has all the candles flickering in his fortress—The Mother rescues Zoe, and she and William and Zoe work their way to Moline, Illinois (shoutout Moline!), and eventually it’s just The Mother and Zoe back in Alaska, where Zoe whines and complains and behaves like a spoiled brat but can you blame her, while The Mother teaches Zoe how to drive and how to shoot and how to survive, because Lovell and his men will be coming for them one day.

At times “The Mother” flashes of a wicked sense of humor, as when Zoe asks about the mystery meat dish in front of her—which came from an animal The Mother trapped in the wild, killed and cooked.

“[It’s] rabbit,” explains The Mother. “Thumper.”

“I’m not eating a rabbit…” says Zoe.

“Listen to me,” comes the reply. “That rabbit had a better life than any cheeseburger you ever ate.”

She’s not wrong.

It’s only a matter of time before Lovell and his dozens of heavily armed marksmen in their matching paramilitary outfits come roaring up. Little do they know It’s Take Your Child to Work Day on The Mother’s compound, and they’ll be facing not one, but two trained killers. Good luck with that, Lovell!

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