Trouble in fur: Jennifer Lopez plays a professional killer in ‘The Mother’.
THE MOTHER ***1/2 (116 minutes) MA
It should come as no surprise that Jennifer Lopez is so convincing as a highly proficient bad-ass professional killer in The Mother.
At the other end of her career in 1998 she starred opposite George Clooney in the Steven Soderbergh crimedy Out of Sight, in which she played Karen Sisco, a gun-loving US Marshall who knew her way around firearms.
Her character has no name here but her expertise with weapons leaves no room for discussion in an exceptionally strong, emotionally-driven action-thriller.
Directed at a cracking pace and with exceptional action-movie instincts by Niki Caro (Whale Rider; Mulan), J.Lo’s mission is to protects her teenage daughter Zoe (Lucy Paez) from a determined band of bad guys out to kill her.
The sting to the story is that Zoe had to be put into a foster family at birth for her protection after a dangerous operation went south, which sent J.Lo into the remote snow-frosted wilds of Alaska. So the reunion between mother and daughter is a might stressful, on top of all the shooting and chasing and killing as they travel north.
There are some impressively staged moments of tension amidst all the top-flight action, but the real payoff comes once mother and daughter are stuck in a snow-covered cabin surrounded by uncertainty, danger and a reluctance to trust each other.
Given all the action mulch we get in the stream, The Mother chimes in a as a way-above-average thriller, with J.Lo at her finest. To think how she’s spent so much time making all those rom coms when she should have been making more movies like this.
BANK OF DAVE **1/2 (108 minutes) M
Based on an inspiring true story, Bank of Dave is a modest, mildly uplifting comedy about Dave Fishwick, a successful businessman who took on the might of Britain’s banking titans to fulfill his dream of setting up a micro-finance shopfront in his small home town of Burnley.
Framed as a folkloric David-and-Goliath fable, the valiant battle by Dave (Rory Kinnear) to establish his not-for-profit community bank is seen mainly from the perspective of Hugh (Joel Fry), the young London lawyer sent out to advise Dave on why his idea, however noble, is ultimately doomed to fail.
His mission is to word Dave up about the legal obstacles and dirty tactics of the finance titans who want the venture crushed.
Hugh is, of course, skeptical at first but – dutifully following the feel-good film mandate – he promptly warms to the altruism of Dave’s concept, the town locals and especially to Alexandra (Phoebe Dynevor), Dave’s niece.
She’s a stressed-out doctor working in the under-funded, under-resourced medical centre who makes clear to Hugh how good Dave’s idea of pumping all profits back into the community truly is.
Directed with workman-like proficiency by Chris Foggin (Fisherman’s Friends), the film plays upon the universal scorn for banks and bankers, making it almost too easy to side with Dave and his quest.
Over-cooking things a tad, the film is at pains to point out how public contempt for financial institutions mounted after the Global Financial Crisis, a monumental disaster from which they emerged unscathed and richer, even though they caused it. A point well made.
With Burnley-born rock band Def Leppard turning up in the final reel to recreate their benefit concert for Dave, the film unspools as a nicely packaged feel-good British film.
That said, Bank of Dave has been on Netflix in the UK for months and is top-and-tailed with the Netflix logo. So, should you see it now, or wait for it to inevitably turn up on Netflix? Perhaps it’s best to hold out.
The story of the real Dave Fishwick is very well known in Britain. It’s a fascinating story. Check out the three-part 2012-13 BBC documentary series here.
MAYBE I DO *** (95 minutes) M
The thorny challenges of long-term commitment, and the mid-marriage malaise that can lead to infidelity gets a good going over in Maybe I Do, a light-hearted look at latter-life romance with some surprisingly thoughtful things to say.
A playful Richard Gere shines alongside fellow veterans Diane Keaton (also a producer), Susan Sarandon and William H Macy. That’s one impressive septuagenarian ensemble right there.
Written and directed by Michael Jacobs, based on his hit play Cheaters, Maybe I Do arrived with little fanfare and no previews. Why? It’s a finely tuned, affable comedy-drama about the emotional minefield of modern marriage.
Yes, it’s a little stagey but the performances are terrific, with Emma Roberts and Australian actor Luke Bracey clocking in with solid support as a young couple trying to work out what kind of role models their parents are, given the marriage trouble they’re having.
Career-long fans of Richard Gere are bound to appreciate one particularly poignant moment where he sits in a café looking at two teens making out in as nearby booth, oblivious to his attention.
Gere quips to the waitress that such passion is now in his past.
The sentiment resonates perfectly with Gere’s screen legacy and the catalogue of films in which he plays a ladies man, from An Officer and a Gentleman to The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
A lovely scene.
THE BOOGEYMAN * (98 minutes) MA
Drenched in web-covered tired clichés, including those houses where nobody ever hits the light switch, The Boogeyman is dreadfully dull and so rote even the most dedicated horror movie addict is likely to be sent into a deep, sound slumber. Based on a Stephen King short story. Terrible.
SWEET AS * (88 minutes) M
Dull, thin road movie as indigenous teen girl Murra (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) joins an Outback trek with other troubled youths to learn Big Life Lessons. Slow and uneventful, meandering and unfocused, the film is a litany of missed opportunities and squandered topicality. Yet another Australian film with no particular audience in mind that’s destined to vanish into the abyss. A pity.