Kelly (Jeannie Bell) leads a group of pirates in the Philippines, a randy bunch composed of locals and fellow black women. They take no crap and steal whatever they want from the boats of rich men vacationing in the area. Her crew is loyal and tough and they fight hard against a rival pirate gang seeking to expand its territory. Kelly’s sister goes missing and she learns that her sister is in a prison camp on an island nearby. Kelly and her faithful sidekick allow themselves to get arrested for piracy and are shipped to the island to serve hard time. There they learn the island is run by a strict warden who is using the free labor to line his own pockets. He also has a mistress, Serena (Jayne Kennedy), a sympathetic fellow prisoner, living the good life as the warden’s consort. Kelly learns her sister has attempted escape and has been brought back, only to die. Nothing is left for Kelly and her friends except to escape and to get revenge on the warden. Will Serena help them, or lead them into a trap?
The Muthers is a rough and tumble film that combines a lot of subgenres into one flick. You’ve got a pirate movie, some softcore nudity, a little bit of kung-fu, a women-in-prison film, and an escape-from-prison movie. All they needed to do was throw in a cannibal tribe and they would have been set. As exciting as this all sounds, the movie does drags in parts. It’s not interminable, just slightly disjointed, as if all the connecting parts of the story were taken out to lessen the running time. While this isn’t crippling to the movie, it does take away that little bit of something that could have made this an all-time classic. The action is fun and consistently entertaining and the acting is good. I really enjoyed Bell in the lead role and Kennedy is as gorgeous as ever, bringing a complexity to a role that could have just been a cut and dried Judas. Instead, we get a woman who is conflicted and pulled in many different directions. The finale is all gunfire, guts, kicking and punching, so it was terrific.
All in all, this wasn’t an amazing film but it was still pretty good and a very interesting attempt at bringing a number of different story tropes together into one thing. Maybe that is its ultimate failure, trying to be too many things at once, but to me that was the overarching charm of the movie. It never really settled into any one vibe, other than the survival of Kelly and her friends. They go through rapist-men, the penal system, a prison camp, torture, and a desperate escape into a deadly jungle, and that’s just half of the movie. The Muthers is a good time, rollicking in parts, heartbreaking in others, and is a worthy addition to the collection of any fan of exploitation flicks.