Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Billy Brown, Danny Glover, and Jahi Di’ Allo Winston
Run time: 1hr 29 mins.
Impostor, a person who practices deception under an assumed character, identity, or name. Maybe this is too strong of a terminology. Perhaps, wearing a nylon gabardine dress by Prada or a solid black Brunello Cucinelli suit that literally cost you an arm and a leg to buy. Or driving an expensive car that the monthly payment is more than your rent or mortgage or possibly speaking a certain way with a dialect or an accent to give the perception of trying to be something that you are not. While watching Proud Mary, although the outer layer gives the impression of a throwback to 1970’s cult classics like Coffy, Cleopatra Jones, and TNT Jackson, unfortunately, once the top layer is peeled away, what is left is an uninspiring storyline lacking depth, with routine action scenes and mediocre acting.
Taraji P. Henson plays Mary, a hitwoman working for an organized crime family in Boston. Her life is changed when she kills the uncle of a young boy named Danny (Jahi Di’ Allo Winston) and witnesses the effect it has on young Danny’s life. Seeing him as her responsibly, she must find a way to escape the life that will lead to a certain death for the two of them.
Henson’s portrayal as a tough, don’t take shit from anyone hitwoman with a soft heart underneath is disappointing. It is a mock version of the seventies black female action superheroes portrayed by cinematic queen legends like Pam Grier, Tamara Dobson, and Jeannie Bell.
The problem is that it is not the 1970’s, it is 2018 and what worked then comes off as obvious and humorous now. The clichés are plenty, from the silhouette of her nude body as she showers to strapping up with a plethora of guns once she has “had enough” and needs TCB (Take Care of Business). There is even a moment when Mary comes to “save the day” and the song, Proud Mary, starts playing. Ike and Tina Turner blasting throughout the speakers of the theater as you are taken on a non-stop action ride, wishing desperately the ride will come to a sudden and thankful stop.
The soundtrack is awesome with songs that include, Papa was a Rolling Stone, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Comin’ From Where I’m From and of course, Proud Mary. It sets the mood for a smooth sophisticated movie, but the movie does not develop the characters or give any sense of backstory. Questions are unanswered about the history of Mary and her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Tom (Billy Brown) and his father Benny (Danny Glover) and why they have such a strong hold on her.
Henson is the executive producer of this film and believes strongly in this project, but the script and directing are poorly done. If she is trying to take cues from the previously mentioned films, she did so in simplicity. Back in the 70’s we were just excited to see a strong independent black woman as a lead character in a feature film. But in this day and age, the expectations are higher. Films and filmmakers are much more capable of storylines that not only has action but a sense of depth and challenges or creates intellectual thinking that keeps viewers intrigued. Mary maybe proud, but the producers should be apologetic.