According to the blurb, Proud Mary is about a hit woman working for a crime family in Boston whose life is turned around when she meets a young boy.
That’s as may be but in reality, Proud Mary is a poor take on an action film with an even poorer attempt at placing it in the past, a seventies blaxploitation vibe never comes to fruition.
Nothing like setting your stall out early I know. But I had high hopes for Proud Mary and feel aggrieved that it hasn’t paid off, though not particularly surprised that it hasn’t.
Taraji P. Henson (Empire (TV), Hidden Figures) plays Mary and, during a hit, she finds the man has a son, Danny, Jahi Di’Allo Winston (Feed The Beast (TV), The Upside). She leaves without the kid seeing her, but she takes a photo of him and keeps her eye out.
Fast forward a year and she comes to the kids rescue when he’s being beaten by a drug baron who belongs to another crime family, Xander Berkeley (The Walking Dead (TV), Allegiant). Mary takes objection and kills the drug baron, this sparks all sorts of problems for her as the two families begin fighting again in a tit for tat war.
I say ‘crime families’, what I really mean is there’s Mary, Tom, Billy Brown (Cloverfield, Star Trek), and Benny the leader, Danny Glover (2012, Lethal Weapon). It’s a small family, more like a gathering.
The script, by John Stuart Newman (Get Shorty (TV), Days Of Our Lives (TV)), Christian Swegal (Solar (Short), Stasis (Short)) and Steve Antin (Gloria, Young Americans (TV)) is short on dialogue, action, feelings, tension or any form of character development.
The main problem, as if you need another reason not to spend your hard-earned readies here, is the editing, by Evan Schiff (John Wick: Chapter 2, Revolt). It’s chopped so much that it jumps around like Flubber trapped in a box. People suddenly appear, or randomly go from sitting to standing, flicking all over the place.
Then there’s the ending, not the usual half-hour you get in action films, but we’re restricted to just 15 minutes instead. It’s eye-rollingly cliched to say the least, with kids getting in trouble and bullet proof cardboard boxes. We’ve seen it all before and seen it better executed.
It’s jarring. If they were trying to go for the old, seventies cuts you see in kung-fu movies, they fail, badly. It’s almost comical at times, particular when the movie seems to be trying to take itself so seriously.
This is, perhaps, the greatest problem here. If the makers of Proud Mary were truly trying to go for a modern take on the blaxploitation (as was mentioned during trailers etc), then they were kidding themselves that would ever work in this age.
It could, perhaps, had more of a chance if the movie hadn’t tried to take itself so seriously, or stuck to a look and feel. The opening credits have a seventies vibe but that’s the only nod to the era we have, the rest of the movie being set within a couple of blocks.
For her part, Henson does remarkably well in the role. She bluffs and punches her way through the quagmire that’s given to her.
Brown, Berkeley even Glover give performances that are bordering on comical at times, not helped by the hammy dialogue and cliched approach to action the film employs.
Sadly, Proud Mary is not the film we wanted, or hoped we’d get. If you really want to see a blaxploitation movie, watch Sheba, Baby instead. The positives come from a decent performance from Henson and they do use the Proud Mary song, though the Tina Turner one, not the Creedence one. That would be asking too much.