'Proud Mary' is a Killer With a Conscience

Taraji P. Henson takes the lead as Mary, a successful hitwoman that’s done well for herself within one of Boston’s leading crime families, led by Benny (Danny Glover) — kind of like a John Wick origin story, with Henson holding the gun instead of Keanu Reeves. When a hit on a bookie leaves his son orphaned, Mary takes him in after a series of unfortunate events. Having the kid around kicks Mary’s maternal senses into high gear and moves her to want to get out of the game and leave the family behind, but there’s one problem — nobody gets out alive.

I have to admit, I had this movie pegged wrong in this month’s movie preview, but rest assured it’s still worth a watch. This was not the blacksploitation film I had expected — which is probably for the best — but I still got my money’s worth. The plot is pretty solid, but definitely had room to grow.

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The movie’s opening montage is a beautiful take on the cinematic stylings of the blacksploitation era, fit with striking silhouettes over vibrant color backgrounds, and does a good job of getting the audience grounded in who Mary is. The movie is set to a soulful soundtrack in most of the moments where it matters, which is impressive to say the least.

The pacing of the movie is a little jagged, but we get to the destination in style, considering how prevalent Mary’s Maserati is anytime it’s in use — I wouldn’t be surprised if it garners a nomination for best supporting actor. We get to learn a little about Benny’s crime family, but there’s not much development for his son Tom (Billy Brown). The cast as a whole, did well with what they were given, but the characters still seem a bit thin.

Mary is a killer with a conscience, and basically decides to turn her world upside down for this kid, which is honestly a bit of a stretch for a single-installment movie. There are some good action sequences that play on the tried and true elements of shoot-em-up formula. I won’t spill the details, but rest assured, that this could have easily been the first film of a trilogy, but alas I fear Henson’s hands were tied on this production. Instead, what we’re left with is a cheesy ending and a shallow story that could have dug so much deeper.

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While I appreciate Henson’s efforts on screen, this movie ended up being a missed opportunity due to a number of reasons, most of which being shortcomings behind the cameras. With Proud Mary being advertised as this baadasssss soul sista — stilettos, guns and the projects filling in her afro — what we end up getting just doesn’t match up. For a movie seeming to empower Black women and centered around a professional killer, we could have used a few more meaningful kills. No hand-to-hand combat? No real ramifications to planned hits? No afro?! What are we doing here?

Proud Mary needed more youth and enthusiasm behind the scenes, but instead went with an 80-year-old writer whose claim to fame, up to this point, is winning an Emmy Award for Days of Our Lives. Don’t get me wrong, an Emmy is a is a big deal by any account, but this story needed a more aggressive storyteller, not daytime soap opera appeal. If any of the Hollywood execs see this, hire me to remake the movie. I’d bet, if given the same cast, I could make this into a major success.

2 out of 5 stars

Nick Bailey is a forward thinking journalist with a well-rounded skill set including writing, design, and photography. Nick now resides in Austin, TX after earning a degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis on journalism from Texas A&M University—Commerce.