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Mother’s Day (2023) Review

No, not a remake of Charles Kaufman’s 1980 cult film, Mother’s Day or Dzien Matki in its native Poland, is more likely to be confused with the recent Jennifer Lopez film The Mother. Both are Netflix films that tell the story of a female operative forced to come out of hiding to save the child they gave up for adoption. 

Mother’s Day however lacks the budget and star power of that film and is the much grittier story of Nina (Agnieszka Grochowska, The Woods, How I Fell in Love with a Gangster) a former NATO Special Ops agent who has officially been dead since 2005. Now, she lives under an alias, works as a crane operator in a scrapyard, and drinks heavily.

And on Mother’s Day she goes to see her son Max (Adrian Delikta), see him from across the street that is because, for his own safety, she gave him up for adoption at birth. But it turns out that only delayed matters because a Serbian mobster, Dusan Dragon, has him kidnapped as revenge for the death of his father.

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Igor (Dariusz Chojnacki, Angel of Death, Leave No Traces) a friend of hers who’s still in the business gives her a lead, Volto (Szymon Wróblewski, The Mire, 25 Years of Innocence), known as Voltmeter for his habit of tazing people to death, and his goons were hired to grab the boy. That’s all Nina needs to start on her road to revenge.

Director Mateusz Rakowicz and co-writer Lukasz M. Maciejewski, who previously collaborated on the much more light-hearted action film The Getaway King, start Mother’s Day off as they mean to continue it. Nina gets into a brawl with a gang harassing a couple of women in front of a seedy looking liquor store. She uses her bag full of beer cans to even the odds she goes as far as literally knocking one of them out of their shoes, all captured in slow motion and framed by beer exploding from the ruptured cans.

That’s followed by a massive brawl in the kitchen of a restaurant that serves as a front for the gang’s activities. People are set on fire, given lobotomies with a corkscrew, and in what is a first, a pair of carrots are used as lethal weapons. I wasn’t thrilled with the overuse of slow motion, but apart from that, the action scenes are well choreographed and painful looking.

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In a nice change of pace, that applies to Nina as well. Unlike so many action heroes and heroines who wade through scores of adversaries without a scratch, she looks like she’s been in a fight. Bruised, bloody, and occasionally shot, she seems to get through it all by not only being more skilled than the hordes of goons she faces but by virtue of simply being tougher than her opponents.

Unfortunately, that’s about all Mother’s Day has going for it. The plot is extremely familiar with the various twists, turns, character motivations, and double crosses all too easy to predict. Granted, being formulaic isn’t the worst sin an action film can commit, but Rakowicz and Maciejewski compound it with a lack of interesting characters.

Something like this needs a compelling protagonist and an equally interesting antagonist. The script for Mother’s Day gives us neither. All we know about Nina is that she was an operative and had a mixed-race son whose father was killed in action. Was his death what made her move on to civilian life? Why did she sign up in the first place? We know none of this or anything else about her that would give her any depth or reason to like her beyond her quest to save her son.

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The villains are just as poorly defined. Volto is given some weird characteristics, such as wandering around his mansion in nothing but a giant red ribbon and talking to the head of his dead father, which he keeps on the mantle. Why? Who knows, apparently the fact that he does these things should be enough to make him interesting.

If you’re already a Netflix subscriber, watching Mother’s Day won’t cost you anything extra. So if you’re looking for a gritty female-fronted action film and have already seen Furies, this could be worth your time. And, the ending hints at a sequel involving Nina’s mother that could be interesting and answer some questions if it’s better written.

As I mentioned, Mother’s Day is available on Netflix and is available in an assortment of subtitled and dubbed versions. If you’re looking for more of this kind of film, FilmTagger can suggest some titles.

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