Taraji P. Henson positively has the abilities and expertise to be an motion star. A 20 yr veteran of the large display, she brings a faithful fanbase to the desk because of her massively widespread function on the tv sequence Empire, and from that very same supply has a powerful status for being a badass. On paper, director Babak Najafi’s Proud Mary seems to be the right automobile to make the most of all of that… however sadly, it is actually not. As a substitute, any cache introduced by the thought of an acceptable massive display protagonist for Henson is completely undercut by an infinite string of tropes and bland, generic storytelling that we have seen in what seems like a whole bunch of hitman/murderer movies earlier than.
Proud Mary runs a complete of 88 minutes lengthy, and if that appears quick for a contemporary characteristic, it is as a result of there’s zero meat on these bones (some films are lean; this one is completely calcium). The movie does not even trouble telling us the lead character’s title earlier than the inciting incident — which finds Taraji P. Henson’s character barging into an residence and killing a person earlier than realizing that he has an 11-year-old son named Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) within the again room. Leaping forward to a yr later, she finds herself usually following the child — discovering that he’s working as an errand boy for a rival Russian gangster (Xander Berkeley) and being horribly abused.
Stricken by guilt, she not solely strikes Danny into her residence, however then goes about opening fireplace on the mobster and a bunch of his cronies. This seems to be an impressively dangerous transfer, as tensions ignite between the murdered males’s group and Mary’s personal, headed up by her surrogate father (Danny Glover), and his son (Billy Brown). Shortly beginning to get buried in her personal lies and secrets and techniques, she begins to search for an exit technique for herself and Danny to flee the violent world perpetually.
Stylistically, the movie opens sturdy — presenting opening credit bedazzled with 1970s-reminiscent font and The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rollin Stone” enjoying on the soundtrack. Sadly, Babak Najafi does not appear to know that merely having a throwback title sequence and a kick-ass black lady as your lead does not instantly set up your film as Coffy or Cunning Brown, as a result of the aesthetic fully stops there. All the things from that time ahead has a well-recognized trendy sheen, and any fascinating angle, digital camera motion or lighting impact stands out as a result of they’re so few and much between.
In its protection, a part of it feels just like the movie is struggling from budgetary restraints, however that may solely excuse so many exalting pictures of Mary’s gun closet and Maserati — two of the one issues including any manufacturing worth. The shootouts are rote, the one car-centric motion sequence is excessively silly and not possible, and it even fully dulls the splendidly cinematic metropolis setting that’s Boston, Massachusetts — although it might be the primary Boston-set film in historical past that facilities on gangsters however does not characteristic a single Irishman.
That is fairly revolutionary, however it’s additionally actually the one boring out there cliché that Proud Mary does not exploit — and what makes it worse is than none of it’s supported by even an iota of substance. The largest one is the “skilled killer who needs out” arc that dominates the narrative, however the movie by no means bothers to offer you an actual sense of what Mary has been by way of and what she’s accomplished. It clearly builds up Mary’s secrets and techniques to be uncovered within the third act, however when these revelations occur even the opposite characters appear to behave like they had been simply patiently ready for the data to be delivered. It weirdly feels just like the film is commonly saying, “You have seen all of this earlier than, so we’re not going to even trouble filling within the blanks.”
To her credit score, Taraji P. Henson does do what she will with the less-than-mediocre materials, and positively reveals that she deserves a second shot at this. Going again to the film’s type drawback, the motion sequences do not precisely demand a hell of so much from her, however she convincingly is aware of her manner round a gun and methods to dodge a bullet (at the same time as actuality appears to bend in her favor). She has impactful chemistry with Jahi Di’Allo Winston — a gifted younger actor — and positively hits the emotional notes — however, once more, all of them simply finally get misplaced within the blandness.
Proud Mary is a movie that wasn’t screened prematurely for critics, and it does not take lengthy so that you can totally perceive why. It is the type of complete mess that we see dumped in January yearly, and an unlucky waste of the numerous skills concerned. Like these many comparable titles, it’ll quickly be forgotten — however hopefully there’s no less than one filmmaker or government who sees the potential that originally rested with this challenge and Taraji P. Henson and really makes use of it for future good.