26th Jul2018

‘Proud Mary’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Taraji P. Henson, Danny Glover, Billy Brown, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Neal McDonough | Written by John Stuart Newman, Christian Swegal, Steven Antin | Directed by Babak Najafi


Lethal, professional hit-woman Mary (Taraji P. Henson) works for the most notorious crime family in town, headed by Benny (Danny Glover). When Mary shoots a protected mobster in order to save a young boy, she must take on a rogues’ gallery of crime figures, from the Russian Mafia to those closest to her, including her former lover. Armed with her wits – and a closet full of guns – Mary must do whatever it takes to be the last woman standing…

Billed as akin to the classic Blaxploitation films of the 70s, I was REALLY looking forward to seeing Proud Mary, however that excitement was tempered somewhat by the delay in between the US release and the film finally debuting in the UK… That’s usually not a good sign. And in the case of Proud Mary, that actually holds some truth. For whilst the film isn’t an out-and-out “badass-bitch” film that the 70s-esque advert suggests, it still echoes the films of that era, mixing Pam Grier-esque action with modern sensibilities.

The trope of “bad guy gone good” is nothing new in cinema, even in revenge style thrillers like this – after all Proud Mary is essentially a female-led take on the same story as Leon The Professional, only with hardly any of the charm and coolness that made Luc Besson’s fil,m such a hit with audiences. But it’s not for wont of trying.

Taraji P. Henson’s performance is the backbone of this film and it really does feel like she’s trying – moreso than the writers and director – to make something both exciting, respectful (of the blaxploitation era to which it references), and worthy. Yet while Henson is giving her all as the titular Mary, really trying to give the film the emotional core it needs, the film doesn’t match up to her performance in the slightest. Instead the film wallows in the tropes and cliches of the genre, so much so that there’s undoubtedly no need for the central character to even be female – the opportunity to tell a different story is wasted, Henson is wasted and the audiences time is wasted.

If you’re going into Proud Mary to see a strong female central character, then the film delivers. Mary is a bad-ass hitwoman who can hang with the best, with Henson really channeling the same internal strength that Pam Grier brought to the likes of Foxy Brown. But if you’re going in to see said strong female character given the chance to be anything other than a cliched hitMAN then you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Proud Mary is available on VOD now, the film comes to DVD on July 30th, courtesy of Sony Pictures.


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