Nico’s Movie Review: ‘Proud Mary’ Entertains, But For How Long?
I have to start this review off with a big negative right off the bat, which probably isn't a good sign.
All of the marketing material for Proud Mary made me believe that I was going to get a film that was in the vein of the Taken series, where it would be a one woman-crusade against whoever wronged her, with a tone similar to the action films starring black actors in the 1970's.
While this film does contain some of that, it certainly wasn't what I expected.
Proud Mary stars award-winner Taraji P. Henson as the titular character, who works as an assassin/enforcer for a criminal enterprise of some sort. It's never quite defined, but they clearly make a lot of money; Mary drives around in a Maserati, and Danny Glover's office as "the boss" is full of expensive wood and leather. The film begins with Mary carrying out a hit on a bookie, only to learn that he has a preteen son that she just made an orphan.
It then cuts to one year later, where young Danny(Jahi Di’Allo Winston) is hardened by the streets. Feeling guilt, Mary takes him under his wing, and that is where the film really begins.
The primary focus of Proud Mary is the relationship between Mary and Danny, and how they influence each other. Danny is a distrustful young man at the beginning, while Mary is a distant woman who slowly opens up over time. This part of the movie is heartwarming, if cliche; they did the "character is asleep and cold, and other character drapes a blanket over them" bit twice, and the "don't go in my room, I mean it" bit as well.
However, the other part of the movie is the part that drives this story forward, and that's where it falters. There is a decent amount of action, which for the most part is entertaining, and carried out in a relatively realistic way, where guns are pulled out quickly and someone is killed just as quickly. The meat of this plot involves a brewing conflict between Mary's criminal organization and a rival one, and while the plot points are all competent it feels rehashed and forgettable.
The main flaw with Proud Mary, as far as I can see it, is the tone. in some respects, this movie delivers on the expected promise of an over-the-top, entertaining action movie; Mary drives a Maserati, she's got one of those fold out closets filled with military weapons, she wears all leather with high heels, et cetra. Like I said above, though, for the most part the action and story are relatively realistic, with efficient violence, and traditional orchestral score.
The climactic action scene turns all of that on its head, which really annoyed me. The whole thing takes place while "Rolling on the River" plays, Mary mows through bad guys like the Terminator, and shrugs off bullet wounds like mosquito bites. I think what might have happened with this movie is that the film makers originally set out to make a referential, over-the-top fun movie, but that it got bogged down in the process; this scene leads credence to that idea.
I should talk about the acting, briefly; Taraji P. Henson is fantastic, as she always is. She has this interesting style of acting where 90% of it is in her face, not in the delivery of her lines. Some of her dialogue in Proud Mary isn't great, but to watch her as she says them makes them so much better. Danny Glover as crime lord Benny is entertaining, but his performance is definitely one-note; really, I just like seeing him on the screen. I think that child actor Jahi Di'Allo Winston does a pretty good job as well, and I'm interested to see him improve. None of my criticisms with this film come from the acting.
I really did enjoy Proud Mary, primarily because I'm a big fan of Henson. The problem is, I don't think I'll remember this one all that much a few months down the road. I'd recommend it if you want a good popcorn flick for January, when these types of movies often flounder.
See the trailer below.