Review by Sean Boelman
The core appeal of the French thriller Mama Weed is the opportunity to get to see esteemed actress Isabelle Huppert go wild in a much less serious role than usual, but it doesn’t even deliver in that regard. Average but entirely generic, this film doesn’t live up to the level of potential it has.
The movie follows a police translator who finds herself drawn into the criminal underworld of drug dealing, using her unique insight to become successful. Although this may not be the usual pulpy dirty cop movie, it’s also a very generic Robin Hood story that doesn’t add anything interesting or new to the genre.
Thankfully, the film moves along at a pretty decent pace, and isn’t especially long, but the overwhelming sense of familiarity doesn’t help keep the audience invested. A few exciting sequences sprinkled throughout aren’t enough to sustain a movie that should be campy fun but is instead dull and recycled tropes.
However, the thing that makes most riffs on the Robin Hood arc so compelling is that we are rooting for their success in triumphing over an unjust system. We only get glimpses into the injustices of the Parisian police here. The script pulls most of its punches when it comes to its deeper commentary, leaving something to be desired.
The protagonist is charming enough, largely thanks to the leading performance of Huppert, but the growth she has to experience is so monotonous. It would be nice to watch Huppert do pretty much anything, but the role doesn’t give her the room to embrace her wild side that one would hope it would offer.
Another issue with the film is that the supporting characters aren’t especially memorable. There’s no exaggerated antagonist, no endearing sidekick that the audience can love — quite simply no one for the audience to have fun with. This is a movie that suffers from taking itself far too seriously.
There are some nicely-done things in the film’s execution, but a competently-shot thriller is nothing without suspense in the script. Jean-Paul Salomé’s direction isn’t especially bad, yet it lacks a sense of visual style that could have helped elevate this beyond the dozens of other movies just like it.
Mama Weed should be great because of its lead star alone, but even Isabelle Huppert is only able to do so much to save this sinking ship of a film. It’s not unwatchable by any means, although it is also hardly spectacular.
Mama Weed hits theaters on July 16 and VOD on July 23.