Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Babak Najafi
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Dan Laustsen
WRITERS: John S. Newman, Christian Swegal
“Proud Mary” would like to be a modern day blaxploitation film and in some cases, the next “John Wick”. Taraji P. Henson also does an amazing job of trying to channel the spirit of previous actors, particularly Pam Grier. Unfortunately, the movie’s story, short runtime and a lack of any edge whatsoever makes this an ultimately forgettable filmgoing experience.
The movie starts off with Mary Goodwin (Henson) performing a routine hit, but she didn’t notice that the man’s son Danny (Jahi Di’Allo) was in the next room with his headphones on while playing a video game. She leaves him be and one year later, she looks in on him only to find out that he works for a Russian crime boss who beats and starves him.
Mary quickly takes care of the boss but this makes all the other crime families, including the one she works for, confused as to who did the hit and pointing fingers at one another. All we know now is that a bunch of nameless crime families are about to go to war with one another. Meanwhile, Mary is trying to do everything in her power to protect Danny.
The first thing that I can say is that the characters are played by good actors for the most part, including Danny Glover as the seemingly sweet but murderous crime boss Benny. Sadly, though, the actors in this film are wasted across the board as we never get to know any of them and they all end up being nothing more than cardboard cutouts.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for their whole biographies, but a little set up would have been nice. The film has a lean 88 minute runtime, so they definitely could have added a little bit more substance instead of just going for the style alone. Even “John Wick” managed to set up a pretty interesting world with interesting characters, but this movie just can’t capture that same type of narrative.
Now, while most actors are doing the best with what they got, there is Billy Brown as Tom, Benny’s equally bad son. Brown may be a good actor, but he definitely doesn’t do anything special here except try to act like he’s a big bad character but it’s more laughable than anything. I seriously heard people in the audience chuckle when he would talk sometimes because he is so utterly unconvincing.
The only other good thing I can say about the movie is that there is a pretty decent climactic shootout. In short, this is one of the areas where Henson really gets to shine as an action star and I would like to see her take on more blockbuster roles. The problem once again is that you have to go through a pretty below average crime thriller in order to get to the one good action sequence.
I was looking forward to this film as I’m a huge fan of Henson. Unfortunately, they gave her a film that ends up being a poor blaxploitation knock-off and a watered down action film with no real fighting spirit. This is not the worst film I’ve ever seen, but “boring” and “disappointed” are my two main words for this ultimately joyless ride.