The action flick, all but buried by its studio, has some good hidden deep in its rubble
“Proud Mary” is a flawed shoot-em-up whose heart may be in the right place, but its head is nursing a gaping wound.
Producer-star Taraji P. Henson is Mary, a Boston hitwoman with a heart of gold underneath her bad-ass exterior. When she offs the father of a child on a job, she keeps tabs on the young boy from afar. A year later, she brings Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) into her home and cares for him as her own — keeping the secret, of course, that she is the reason he is an orphan.
Mary is a part of a crime syndicate engulfed in a turf war with a rival mob. Danny Glover plays Benny, Mary’s boss, who carries himself more like the genial owner of a neighborhood hardware store than he does a ruthless gangster. The two organizations take turns clipping each other, oftentimes in broad daylight; there doesn’t seem to be a single cop in town.
“Proud Mary” oscillates between grim and mawkish, with a heavy-handed score overselling the film’s self-serious tone. It lightens up during Mary’s scenes with Danny, and during a free-for-all action sequence set, of course, to Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” Otherwise, its plausibility has more holes in it than Mary’s Maserati at the end of the film’s climactic shootout.
“Proud Mary” is being buried by its studio, giving the impression it’s an out-and-out bomb. It’s not. Henson is better than the simplistic script (by a trio of writers) and Babak Najafi’s (“London Has Fallen”) clunky direction, but she can only do so much with what she’s given. The film’s posters and title sequence hint at the blaxploitation riff “Proud Mary” could have been. That would have been more interesting, and it would have done more to make this Mary proud.
Rated R for violence
Running time: 89 minutes