- Movie Rating -

Proud Mary (2018)

| January 11, 2018

I’m always a little suspicious when a movie studio tries to hide its product.  When critics have difficulty seeing a film in time to meet their deadlines, it invariably has nothing to do with PR and everything to do with the fact that the distributers are likely hiding damaged goods.  I was curious about this with regards to Proud Mary, an action throwback that stars Taraji P. Henson whose  presence gave me hope that this movie would be something great, and in the weeks leading up to it, I had reason to hope.  It has a kick-ass trailer that has been making the rounds – at least in my circles – with a great deal of enthusiasm, and even the poster art seemed to promise something fun.  So, why is Screen Gems making it so difficult for critics to see this movie?  Well, because they know that and you and the critics will be disappointed when you see what the movie has to offer.

Proud Mary is a movie that promises an action funfest that it refuses to deliver.  It seems to be promising a throwback to the funky-cool blaxploitation pictures of the early 70s like Coffy and Cleopatra Jones in which tough, gorgeous black women toted big guns and killer looks and proved that great action doesn’t stop at the gender line.  The poster to Proud Mary gives us hope and so does the opening credits, but once the plot gets underway we are treated to a movie that amounts to what would have been the most forgettable action picture of 1987.

The movie is so by-the-numbers that you’ll forget about it five minutes after you’ve seen it.  I will likely remember the advertising for Proud Mary more than I will the movie itself.  I am likely going to forget it as soon as I’m finished with this review.  I’m struggling to remember much about it right now.

So, before I forget, here’s the plot: A lone wolf professional killer named Mary works for an organized crime family headquartered in Boston that took her in when she was a runaway teenager.  As the movie opens, she goes out on her latest hit but it goes wrong in all the right ways.  A year later, she realizes that the target of that hit had a son named Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winson) who is now orphaned making a living on the streets.  Guilty over having killed the kid’s father (he doesn’t know this yet) she decides to put herself in the role of mother eagle.  As his protector, she finds herself in deep trouble when he runs afoul of the local arm of the Russian mob.

Another problem: Mary kills several members of the Russian mob which sparks a turf war between the Russians and Mary’s “family,” to whom the Godfather is an elder named Benny (Danny Glover).  How did the Russian mob know that Mary was the killer?  How did they know that she was affiliated with Benny or anyone else in the family?  That’s a question you’re not supposed to answer.

Much of the movie deals with Mary’s protection of Danny, which is developed quite well but doesn’t play well against the danger they are supposed to be in.  We never feel that the danger has come to them in a real way as in some of the great protector-and-kid pictures like Shane, Lone Wolf and Cub, The Professional and even Logan.  Yes, the child-parent relationship is well developed but the rest of the story feels like an obligation.

But the biggest problem is our the betrayal of our expectations.  The trailer promises us a movie that pops and rattles and really kicks ass, but the bulk of the movie refuses to get out of second gear.  It’s slow, and dull, and rarely ever packs a punch.  It’s like we’re watching a Netflix series in which this is only the first episode.  The action scenes in the trailer, backed by Tina Turner’s classic song pops up in the third act but it’s tonally out of place based on the scenes that got us there.

The one thing that really does work here is Taraji P. Hensen who fits well into this character.  She’s a wonderful actress, and ridiculously popular right now after Hidden Figures and her success on television in ”Empire.”  She’s deserves a lot better than this movie.  It needed a re-write a la All the Money in the World.  It needed to be scrapped, rewritten and rethought.  What is here are the promising pieces of a good movie waiting for someone who knows what to do with them.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2018) View IMDB Filed in: Action