We’ve all been lied to by marketing before. Taraji P. Henson’s newest film “Proud Mary” promised us our leading lady drinking alcohol, taking down bad guys and looking great in leather. Yes, Taraji does do all of these things. She even does it set to the iconic tune of “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner. However, everything outside of that moment is a mess. It’s not even a “so bad you can’t look away” mess. At just 89 minutes, the film slogs along with a morality plot that is too thin to even carry a half-hour TV episode.
Mary (Taraji P Henson) is a deadly assassin who works for a mob family in New York. After going through with a hit on a man who owed gambling debts, she finds he has a son. Over the next year, she keeps tabs on the kid, finding out he works for a rival gang and is being abused. After finding him hurt in an alleyway, Mary takes the kid, Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) in and takes out the competition. From there, she tries to protect Danny while keeping her actions and his existence secret from the other members of the “family.”
We don’t deserve Taraji P. Henson. The “Empire” star gives every scene her all. She plays the guilt-ridden maternal urges of Mary with more care than it deserves. When she gets to be an action star, she delivers. However, we were robbed of this R-rated action flick where Taraji lets her freak flag fly. She gets very few moments to let her natural charisma shine. The most we get is her badgering the kid for using foul language. Henson is a grade A movie star and has proven this time and time again. It would be great if she had a Liam Neeson type action movie that she headlines each year. Yet, if this is the direction she wants to go, she will need to find better action films.
Few movies have sported a more cookie-cutter version of a crime family. Danny Glover has a fantastic presence that would make him a perfect mafioso. Yet, the film grossly underserves this legendary actor. He’s a villain on autopilot. The same could be said of Billy Brown as Tom, Mary’s co-worker, and possible love interest. There’s no sense of a relationship between them. He also fails to be intimidating.
Perhaps the biggest slight against “Proud Mary” is that nothing happens. It’s an action movie without action. It’s a drama without real drama. In short, it’s a complete bore. January churns out many fun action films, even if they aren’t exactly high cinema. That’s how “Taken” turns into a massive sleeper hit and relaunches Liam Neeson’s career. Why does the film bog itself down in Mary saving a child? Who wants to see Taraji P. Henson lecture a child on swearing and violence? The film sells itself as a good time with an alcohol swigging, leather-clad badass in go-go boots. Taraji P. Henson is more than capable of giving us that good time. “Proud Mary” is not.