Proud Mary is a film that feels like it’s been frozen for 40 years and thawed out for a modern audience. The opening titles have a funky, colourful flair – harping back to the Blaxploitation movies of the 70s – and the picture limps along with an expired formula. It’s not a genre that defies resurrection, as seen in Tarantino movies – but with nothing else to latch on to, it’s doomed to fail.
The movie follows Mary (Taraji P Henson), a fierce assassin working for a notorious crime family in Boston. During one hit, she kills a man with his son Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) in the next room. She escapes without being seen, racked with guilt. Skip forward a year and Danny’s working for a crime-boss called “Uncle” (Xander Berkeley). Mary pulls him out, and she allows him to stay at her place.
It’s not long before the viewer starts to grasp Proud Mary’s tedious lack of originality. The plot starts with the typical hitman-child catalyst (done better in Leon: The Professional and even Kill Bill Vol 1), building to the living-relationship between Mary and Danny. The best scenes in the film are those with them together. Despite the dialogue, which feels ripped out of a cheesy soap opera (co-writer John Stuart Newman was a long-time writer on Days of Our Lives), their relationship is a joy to watch unfold.
This is helped enormously by the talents of Henson and Winston, who bring life to the dullest lines, but even Henson appears to be directed away from a convincing performance. This leaves Winston to fend for himself, and he has no trouble with that – standing strong in an environment completely different to the new Netflix comedy Everything Sucks, in which he also gives a staggering performance.
The story then crawls into a tedious Godfather imitation. Danny Glover plays Benny, the Vito Corleone of the crime family that Mary is absorbed into, with Billy Brown as the Sonny-like Tom. The actors do all right with what they’re given, but their characters have nothing alluring to offer besides the capacity to kill – and since when was that interesting in itself?
Proud Mary dies from the start and one wonders why they bothered to make it. Aside from flat-screens and Smart Fridges, there’s nothing new in this pointless attempt at a Blaxploitation thriller.
Proud Mary is released nationwide on 23rd March 2018.
Watch the trailer for Proud Mary here: