The irony of the second chance celebrity power couple Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck releasing films on the same day is not lost on me. That irony is too good to pass up on the opportunity to do my first every double feature review. This seems pretty appropriate for the Bennifer movie weekend takeover. Not just because of the power couple’s singular release date, but because both films are bad for similar reasons.
“The Mother” is a Netflix release that feels right at home among the abundance of middling action films, while “Hypnotic” is an ill advised theatrical release that SHOULD be sitting right next to the JLo flick in the queue. Both films struggle to find their own footing in similar ways, opting to borrow more than innovate and suffering tremendously for it. “The Mother” and “Hypnotic” are two films that probably should’ve stayed in the vaults from which they were dug out of, with neither film being a good way to spend your Mother’s Day weekend.
Beginning with “The Mother,” the Netflix film is directed by Niki Caro (“Whale Rider,” “Mulan” 2020) from a screenplay by Misha Green (“Lovecraft Country“), Andrea Berloff (“Straight Outta Compton“) and Peter Craig (“Top Gun: Maverick“) and stars Jennifer Lopez as the titular character. The film is a run of the mill action thriller, leaving nothing to the imagination in its formulaic plotting and genre tropes. Whatever you think is going to happen in this movie happens, and there is quite literally 0 surprises across its near 2 hour runtime. Which is shocking considering the level of talent involved in the screenplay, which doesn’t display any shred of their other, more successful works. An assassin gets caught up in a devious scheme and tries to turn states evidence, only to be discovered by her enemies. Surviving the initial attack, her unborn daughter is sent off into the care of the FBI, far away from her so that no one can harm her. Of course, the bad guys find out where she is and kidnap her to get the mother out of hiding (yes, her name is quite literally Mother in this) and settle their score. It’s basically J-Lo with a gun and a vendetta, and unfolds exactly as you would expect from that premise.
The biggest problem with “The Mother” is that it doesn’t seek to add anything new to its own genre. It borrows heavily from things like “Taken” and “Lou” and a plethora of other assassin type, “someone stole my child and it’s ass kicking time” films that do all of these elements infinitely better. “The Mother” is frustrating because that should be an easy win given the winnable framework. But everything is so safe and uninspiring that it becomes really hard to invest in anything and anyone. Not only does the film not do enough to set itself apart, it doesn’t do enough to even be remotely memorable. It’s the kind of movie you only half watch while you play games on your phone, and then just kind of shrug when it’s over having only really watched portions of it. “The Mother” has some decent ideas, but takes itself far too seriously to be as effective as it wants. Only Lopez seems to be dialed into whatever strengths lie beneath the weight of its faults, and she does her best to elevate even the worse of the material. “The Mother” is a good Lopez performance in a really bad film.
I’m all fine with Lopez doing films for paychecks, as she’s kind made a career out being this kind of character every few years. But Joseph Fiennes and Gael García Bernal (“Mozart in the Jungle“) have no business being in this kind of shlock. I’m guessing they were brought in to give “The Mother” some gravitas, but the self seriousness with which Caro approaches the subject matter is so tonally imbalanced from the silliness of the premise overall. Additionally, it has been a very long time since I’ve seen a film so overly edited I actually notice its jarring style. “The Mother” is so cut up and choppy it was actually making my head spin. Over the shoulder to medium to wide to over the shoulder to over the shoulder to drone shot all in the span of a minute is near nauseating, and I can’t decide if editor David Coulson is new to the job or purposefully sabotaged the whole thing for, I don’t know, reasons. “The Mother” has the groundwork to be a solid action thriller, but trades out all intrigue for safety which leaves it lost in a sea of Netflix scrolling.
And that takes us to “Hypnotic,” Ben Affleck’s stab at the action thriller genre. Somehow it suffers from many of the similar faults that “The Mother” does, only this one swings wildly and hits nothing but air. Written and Directed by Robert Rodriguez, “Hypnotic” stars Ben Affleck as detective Danny Rourke who is still reeling from the kidnapping and disappearance of his daughter. On assignment to investigate some bizarre bank robberies, Rourke begins to unravel a web of mystery and mind bending revelations that may hold the key to the whereabouts of his daughter and his own life. The film also stars Alice Braga and William Fitchner, and a blink and you miss it cameo from Jackie Earle Haley. Inversely of “The Mother,” “Hypnotic” sports some really great concepts handled with terrible execution and an even worse performance from Affleck.
I truthfully don’t know what he’s doing in this. He doesn’t need the money, I can’t imagine he owes Rodriguez a favor, and this certainly feels far beneath him in just about every way possible. Affleck sleepwalks through the entirety of “Hypnotic,” applying his disdain for public appearances and papparazi clashes to nearly every facet of his performance. Affleck looks like he would rather be anywhere else, and since the entirety of the film hinges on the likability of Rourke, you too start to wish you were anywhere else. “Hypnotic” feels as if someone watched a bunch of Christopher Nolan films in college and said, “I can do that!” and then tried to make all of their favorites in one single film. Even for someone as audacious as Rodriguez, he feels like he’s keeping “Hypnotic” at arms length. He feels as disconnected from the film as Affleck does from his character, and this causes any promise of its ideas being effective to fall completely flat. The amount of movie packed into this 90 minute thriller is exhausting and astounding, with Braga literally being an exposition machine with every line of dialogue. She’s essentially the Lopez of the film, doing everything she can to elevate her character but clashing against the incredibly mundane and uninspiring execution.
Perhaps even more unbelievable than how bad “Hypnotic” is, is how much it cost to make. This film feels like it was made in 2001 and has sat on the shelf for 20 years until it was pulled from the archives for, I don’t know, tax write offs or something. “Hypnotic” has a whooping budget of $65 million, and everything is so shoddy and outdated I am demanding receipts to show where it was spent. I can only assume that $50 million went Affleck’s salary and the rest was on catering, because there is absolutely nothing in “Hypnotic” that warrants that big of a budget. It’s unfortunate too, because with a little bit of care and some better execution (and a lead that actually wants to be in the movie), “the intriguing premise could’ve taken the strengths from things like “Momento,” “Inception” and “Looper” to make a solid thriller instead of all of their weaknesses to make an unwatchable one.
“The Mother” and “Hypnotic” make for a near unbearable double feature, and most certainly puts a damper on the movie going experience over the Mother’s Day weekend. However you feel about Bennifer (both together and apart) I for one largely enjoy most of their recent work and believe they are both far better than both of these films. Netflix seems to have an inescapable problem with their current slate of offerings, with just about everything being met with “meh” like “The Mother” regardless of how much they spend on celebrities to front them. And for “Hypnotic,” there just isn’t an excuse from a duo like Rodriguez and Affleck to churn out garbage like this at this stage in their careers. These films are the folly of living in the age of content instead of cinema. Being spoiled for choice forces us to sift through the rubble of half baked and under cooked ideas in hopes to find a few diamonds in the rough.
Unfortunately for “The Mother” and “Hypnotic,” they’re part of the rubble, and are better off not being seen by too many people. And for those that do see them, you’ll be left wanting and disappointed. Don’t worry too much, though. I just saw them and I’ve already forgotten everything about them.
Since we’re taking Bennifer as a single unit, “The Mother” and “Hypnotic” both earn the same rating. Ya, they’re both THAT bad. Might be best to skip the movies and take your mom out to breakfast.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
“The Mother” is now streaming on Netflix. “Hypnotic” is now playing in theaters. You can watch both trailers below.