Proud Mary (2018)

  • Time: 89 min
  • Genre: Action | Crime | Thriller
  • Director: Babak Najafi
  • Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Neal McDonough, Jahi Di’Allo Winston


Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a hit woman working for an organized crime family in Boston, whose life is completely turned around when she meets a young boy whose path she crosses when a professional hit goes bad.


  • It is a given fact that Taraji P. Henson has the sass and swagger in the world to carry Proud Mary, which shamelessly rips off John Cassavetes’ Gloria and marries it to a John Wick-type of action film. Henson is most definitely the only reason Proud Mary is even remotely worth watching, but even she cannot save it from mired in mediocrity.

    Henson is Mary, a hitwoman with a heart of gold, seen at the start killing a mark but sparing his young son, Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), who was too busy playing video games in the next room to realise his father had been shot. Cut to a year later – Danny is a hardened street urchin, running drugs for a Russian gangster named Uncle (Xander Berkeley), who has no qualms about physically abusing the thirteen-year-old and who also happens to be the rival of Mary’s boss, Benny (Danny Glover), who rescued her when she was a teenager, took her into his crime family and trained her to be the killer she is today. When Mary finds an injured Danny in an alley, she takes him into her luxurious apartment and then goes to confront Uncle and inadvertently sparks a gang war when she shoots him dead.

    Even before this comes to pass, Mary has obviously been thinking twice about her life. She’s keen on getting out though, naturally, hardly anyone flies out of Benny’s nest. Perhaps her conflict might have been more resonant had screenwriters Steve Antin, John Stuart Newman and Christian Swegal given Henson and Glover something more to work with than the usual recycled scraps. As for the action sequences, they’re rote at best with barely competent staging from director Babak Najafi, who incredibly shows less aptitude here than he displayed in his previous effort, London Has Fallen.

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  • A hitwoman decides to leave a life of killing after joining an organized crime family in Boston, MA. Said hitwoman also attempts to look after a young kid who’s being terrorized by the nasty thugs he works for. That’s the gist of Proud Mary, my latest review. After an opening credits sequence that’s a homage to blaxploitation films everywhere, “Mary” reeks in terms of familiarity and forced habitualness. It descends into becoming a totally stock mob thriller.

    “Mary’s” got cool cars but it has risible one-liners. It’s got eccentric guns but it takes itself way too earnestly. Finally, “Mary” is violent but its violence doesn’t completely sting. All the carnage and duality feels half-assed at best. Heck, there’s no visual poetry or ferocity as birds in flight. Bottom line: Proud Mary ain’t no downtown Foxy Brown.

    Proud Mary’s lead is Taraji P. Henson. She’s visibly beautiful, she’s a terrific actress, she’s bad in black, and she has that apparent Pam Grier screen presence. However, Taraji is not an action star. “Mary’s” director (Babak Najafi) knew this early on and that’s why he films Proud Mary’s fighting sequences so shoddily, so sloppily, and without clarity. When Henson’s Mary Goodwin takes out 10-15 guys in “Mary’s” final act, you don’t believe it’s possible and furthermore, you believe the stunt double did all the work.

    Henson, an Oscar-nominated trouper and someone coming off a cinematic hit a la Hidden Figures, needs to have a long, hard talk with her agent. She needs to decide whether or not to bring down the anvil and fire this person.

    All in all, Proud Mary has chintzy dialogue, two or more main characters that fade in and out, a barely resonant Neil McDonough, a tedious midsection, and Tina Turner’s 1971 hit song being played as an obvious ploy. As a mediocre version of a female John Wick, a neutered version of this year’s Accident Man, and a flick that borrows its plot line from 1994’s The Professional, “Mary” sadly earns its January release date. This disposable movie is nothing to be “proud” of. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

    Rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars

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