Monday, January 15, 2018

Review: "Proud Mary" never quite becomes the badass blaxploitation it wants to be

Proud Mary Review

January, February and (sometimes) March are the slow months out of the year in movies. I don't know how this came to be, I don't know if the studios came together and just decided to drop all their crap in these months. I don't know if, since its cold and miserable and the holidays are over, they just don't try this time of year. But for many years now, these are slow months of the year. Sure, every once in a good while, you'll get ONE great January release or ONE great February release. But its mostly a slow time of year.

I had faith that "Proud Mary" would be one of those rarities that I ended up loving. An action thriller produced and starring Taraji P. Henson with a blaxploitation feel couldn't possibly go wrong, right? With so many great action movies as inspiration, how could you go wrong? Well, the answer is way wrong and I am sad to announce that "Proud Mary" gets more wrong then it does right. 

The film certainly starts like its going to be strong. We see Mary (Henson) getting ready for a job. Not an everyday nine-to-five either. She has an apartment full of guns and tactical gear. Mary is a hitwoman, and very skillful one at that. As the blaxploitation inspired opening credits finish, we see her at the very end of a job. A job she realizes that leaves a boy orphaned. That boy's name is Danny (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) and five years after the death of his father (by Mary) he's an errand boy for the Russian Mob. So of course, he comes into contact with Mary. And of course, she takes him in out of pity and guilt. And of course, she gets him out of the dangerous life of errand boy by killing the Russian's mob boss. I didn't know what to expect here, but another predictable "hitman with a heart" story wasn't it.

The fun doesn't stop there though! It seems that the Russian boss Mary killed is the rival of her mob family, so his untimely death poses a problem for her crew. Mary pins the death on someone else in her family, but the Russians also want to negotiate for some territory. Why do they want to do that in the wake of a death in their mob family? To put a ridiculous action story-line that really doesn't belong. A person who dug a dangerous whole for themselves that they have to climb out of isn't a new idea. But that doesn't mean that the filmmakers couldn't have pulled some tension and entertainment out of the movie. "Proud Mary" only dissolves into a big, shoot-em-up movie. Which is also fine, there are plenty of shoot-em-ups that have hit my sweet spot. This movie can't even make some action sequences thrilling.

What we do get is Danny Glover's most comically stiff performance of his career, playing the mob boss Mary works for and who she eventually comes into conflict with because...surprise, surprise...she wants out of the crime life. Why? So she can raise Danny as her own! But hopefully before Danny finds out the slow, agonizing truth of what Mary did. I can't honestly believe that what I am exposing here are spoilers, since movies like this are a dime a dozen. Whether you've been to the theater recently or not, you've seen "Proud Mary." The most disappointing thing about it is that it doesn't even dare to be different.

Taraji P. Henson acts her ass off here, and she's trying. Her career isn't going to suddenly plummet. Even the greats have a couple bad eggs in their filmography. I would also say that Winston is pretty good here, and makes some flat moments surprisingly emotional. I think he's got a shot at a good career if he keeps it up. Xander Berkeley and Neal McDonough show up, but sadly are not given anything significant to do, so it feels like they wasted their time. What a shame.

Sadly, "Proud Mary" is just another January release and its the most disappointing thing I can say about it.

FINAL GRADE: D

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