UK Release Date: 30th July 2018
Runtime: 89 minutes
Director: Babak Najafi
Writer: John Stuart Newman, Christian Swegal, Steve Antin
Starring: Taraji P Henson, Danny Glover, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Billy Brown
Synopsis: An assassin working for a crime family in Boston has her priorities changed when she takes in a kid off the street, which causes friction between her and her employers.
Five minutes into crime thriller Proud Mary, I was utterly convinced I was going to love it. By this time, Taraji P Henson‘s title character has donned a blonde wig, prowled around a home like a badass and shot a dude dead in cold blood. It’s a clinical, brutal opening to a movie and a clear statement of intent as to who this character is. However, what follows is a flash forward and then a tedious story that gradually strips away everything about Mary that made her interesting in the opening scene.
Mary is an assassin, working for the Boston crime family run by her ex Tom (Billy Brown) and his ageing father Benny (Danny Glover). Out on the streets one day, she picks up troubled child Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), who has collapsed in an alleyway after being brutally beaten by his boss – a rival crime lord – in the wake of a slightly bungled drug deal. When Mary opts to solve the problem and take Danny in, she unwittingly lights the touchpaper on something that seems set to blossom into an all-out turf war.
On paper, the credentials of this movie sound fairly solid. It possesses a dynamite leading lady, in a rare example of a black woman getting the chance to anchor an action movie, and seems to have a decent backdrop in the shape of Boston’s organised crime world. However, once you see that the director is Babak Najafi, who helmed the dreadful London Has Fallen, alarm bells start ringing. Those alarms don’t stop as the movie progresses, limping its way through a dramatically inert story. It asks you to care about the struggles between these crime families, despite the fact we’re given no reason to be interested in this conflict, beyond clichés about turf wars.
Henson does her best with what she has, but she deserves better than this nonsense. Despite the fact she’s front and centre, she is still written as a rather passive character, whose life is entirely dictated by men, even though she’s every bit as capable of protecting herself as they are. The ersatz parental relationship she was with Winston’s identikit cocky teenager is poorly written and never fleshed out around forced banter between the pair and Mary’s strict house rules, which are constantly flouted.
The action, when it comes, is overly serious and the entire movie tries to operate with a straight face, robbing the story of any of the campy appeal you’d expect from a Liam Neeson vehicle or similar. It’s a surprise, given that, when the titular Tina Turner song kicks in to soundtrack a third act car chase. When the action unfolding on screen is as serious as this, it feels as if the song has been taken from a sillier and more enjoyable movie. I wish I had the chance to watch that one instead.
A couple of featurettes, but not a massively exciting selection.
Pop or Poop?
It has many of the right constituent parts to be a fun action movie, but Proud Mary suffers from a desperately dull story that never takes advantage of Taraji P Henson’s innate charisma. There’s no sense of enjoyable silliness and not nearly enough edge, so the result is just a bit bland.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Proud Mary is available on DVD in the UK from Monday courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.