It’s necessary to have some diversity in all film genres. We haven’t seen a black woman star as a no-nonsense, gun toting action hero since Pam Grier in the 70’s. In Proud Mary, award winning actress Taraji P. Henson gets to step into the shoes of a bad ass hitwoman. But just because the leading lady and the concept is good, doesn’t mean the end product will be.
Henson plays Mary, an assassin who takes in a young boy named Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) whose father she killed in a hit. Determined to free herself and the boy from the violent world of organized crime, Mary kills the rival mob boss that Danny worked for. The move insights an underground war forcing her to turn on her boss Benny (Danny Glover) and his son/her ex-lover Tom (Billy Brown).
I love Henson as an actress. And I love crime drama. So I wanted to like Proud Mary as much as I did Salt or John Wick. But Proud Mary is a dull, forgettable mess that feels more like a TV movie. The Mary character isn’t given remotely enough to make you care about her other than the fact that she’s played by Taraji P. Henson and the plot delivers about as much nuance as my description of it. The entire story feels rushed through, with supporting characters and motives barely touched on. It almost feels like there’s about a half hour chunk of character development and exposition missing.
The action doesn’t manage to be a saving grace, except for a few scenes. Many of the sequences feel poorly edited, as if to better mask the stunt doubles. It makes for several choreographed moments where it’s obvious Taraji P. isn’t the one throwing the punches meaning her most intimidating character moments come from shooting people in the head point blank.
The soundtrack is wonderful and the mother-son chemistry with Henson’s Mary and Winston’s Danny is endearing enough to at least make you care about them and make the story not a complete waste of time. But it doesn’t change the fact that this movie is a missed opportunity. Henson is a good enough actress to warrant an action movie with a budget and story better than a BET movie you’d watch while doing laundry on a weekday afternoon.
FINAL GRADE: D