×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Proud Mary’

As a haunted assassin who bonds with a kid, Taraji P. Henson has a humanity that trumps this watchable wad of B-movie formula.

Director:
Babak Najafi
With:
Taraji P. Henson, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Billy Brown, Danny Glover, Neal McDonough, Xander Berkeley, Margaret Avery, Rade Serbedzija.
Release Date:
Jan 12, 2018

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6421110/

Proud Mary” is an assassin-with-a-heart-of-gold action thriller in which the sizzle doesn’t match the steak (or, in this case, the low-grade VOD-and-cable-ready B–movie hamburger). The sizzle is all about the blazing guns and badass attitude — about the film’s neo-blaxploitation credits and allusion to the anarchic Ike and Tina Turner version of the title song, about its showy and efficient but ultimately rather routine action sequences, and about the doleful swagger of its star and executive producer, Taraji P. Henson, who knows how to shoot a bullet into somebody’s chest by adding that special touch of mean-it fierceness.

Beneath the ballistic flash, though, “Proud Mary” is a rather desultory sentimental fable about a veteran Boston killer, Mary (Henson), who takes a 13-year-old street urchin, Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), under her tattered wing. She becomes his protector, and in the process tries to liberate herself from a lifetime of regret. Henson is the right actress to play a contract killer grown weary, but as a thriller “Proud Mary” doesn’t do her justice. It’s a connect-the-dots underworld trifle, watchable and minimal (at 88 minutes, it has time for about one-and-a-half plot twists), though Henson holds it together and, at moments, comes close to convincing you that you’re watching a better movie.

Mary meets Danny when she orphans him by killing his deadbeat father. The kid is already a precocious criminal, a survivor with a tough pout, who works for a local hood — played by the always appealing Xander Berkeley, though in this case trying out an unfortunate stage-Yiddish accent from the early ’60s. Danny’s plight brings out the maternal instinct that Mary has been repressing her whole life, ever since she was a lost teenager who got rescued by Benny (Danny Glover), the gangster who trained her to be an assassin and made her part of his criminal family. It’s a nest that no one is allowed to leave.

Glover, now 71, gives a canny and arresting performance. Holding his tall frame stock-still, he’s all scratchy vocal delivery and folksy benevolence — until he’s crossed, at which point he turns evil, though he doesn’t alter his delivery at all, just the words he’s saying. He’s a very friendly monster. We can see why Mary would want to be free of him — and, what’s more, why she’s still running from her romance with Benny’s cloyingly heartless son, Tom (Billy Brown). They’re her clan, but she wants to breathe clean air again.

In 1994, “The Professional” teamed Jean Reno and the young Natalie Portman and proved that it was possible to make a movie about a hitman who partners with a kid and not have it be a corny contrivance. But just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s easy. “Proud Mary” is too sketchy to give Mary and Danny’s kinship anything more than an abstract weight. It’s the sort of movie in which Danny accuses Mary of taking care of him out of guilt, and she replies, “That’s not true! Well, maybe it was at first, but it’s not true now.” The dialogue simply mirrors the script’s formulaic design.

Henson, at least, makes every scene breathe. She’s not an exploitation actress. She gives Mary a haunted bravado, and when she finally confronts her enemies, one by one, you feel the weight of each pulled trigger. Yet maybe that’s the very reason why Henson is decent, but not exceptional, as an action star: As she wheels her car through a spray of bullets, or picks off henchmen with perfectly timed shots, she goes through the motions just fine, but you never feel like she was born for this kind of brutality. Taraji P. Henson has too much humanity to be reduced to a lethal weapon.

Film Review: 'Proud Mary'

Reviewed at Main Street Cinemas, New York, Jan. 11, 2018. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 88 MIN.

Production: A Screen Gems release of a Screen Gems production. Producers: Tai Duncan, Paul Schiff. Executive producers: Glenn S. Gainor, Taraji P. Henson.

Crew: Director: Babak Najafi. Screenplay: Steve Antin, John Stuart Newman, Christian Swegal. Camera (color, widescreen): Dan Laustsen. Editor: Evan Schiff.

With: Taraji P. Henson, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Billy Brown, Danny Glover, Neal McDonough, Xander Berkeley, Margaret Avery, Rade Serbedzija.

More Film

  • Bluebird review

    SXSW Film Review: ‘Bluebird’

    As affectionate as a love letter but as substantial as an infomercial, Brian Loschiavo’s “Bluebird” may be of most interest to casual and/or newly converted country music fans who have occasionally wondered about the songwriters behind the songs. There’s a better than even-money chance that anyone who’s a loyal and longtime aficionado of the musical [...]

  • ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad

    ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending for the Fourth Week in a Row

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Paramount Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the fourth week in row with “Wonder Park.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.18 million through Sunday for 1,718 national [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan Jordan Vogt-Roberts

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan, Jordan Vogt-Roberts Team for Monster Movie

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan is producing a creature feature, billiards champ Cisero Murphy is getting a movie, the sixth Terminator movie gets a title, and Graham King receives an honor. PROJECT UNVEILED More Reviews SXSW Film Review: ‘Bluebird’ Video Game Review: 'The Division 2' New Regency and Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Nicolas Cage to Star in Martial Arts Actioner 'Jiu Jitsu'

    Nicolas Cage will star in the martial arts actioner “Jiu Jitsu,” based on the comic book of the same name. The cast will also include Alain Moussi, who stars in the “Kickboxer” franchise. Dimitri Logothetis is producing with Martin Barab and directing from a script he wrote with Jim McGrath. Highland Film Group is handling [...]

  • Chinese success of Thai film "Bad

    Chinese, Thai Shingles Pact for Co-Production Fund at FilMart

    A deal to establish a 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) co-production fund between China and Thailand was struck at FilMart on Tuesday to help launch TV and film projects that will appeal to Chinese and Southeast Asian audience. The deal that was struck by China’s Poly Film Investment Co., TW Capital from Thailand and Thai [...]

  • Kevin Tsujihara

    Kevin Tsujihara's Ouster Kicks Off a Week of Major Disruption in the Media Business

    The sudden ouster of Warner Bros. Entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara kicked off what is likely to go down as one of the most extraordinary weeks in Hollywood history, spelling enormous turmoil and transition across the media landscape. In addition to the news about Tsujihara, which comes amid a wider shake-up of leadership at AT&T’s WarnerMedia, [...]

  • Buddha in Africa

    More Than Half of Films at Hot Docs Film Festival Are Directed by Women

    More than half of the films playing at Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, are directed by women, the Canadian event said Tuesday. The festival’s 26th edition, which runs April 25-May 5, will screen 234 films, with 54% of the directors being women. In the competitive International Spectrum program, notable films receiving their world [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content