Unfortunately, Proud Mary Never Starts Burning, Much Less Keeps On Burning.
Well, it’s about that time in 2018 when I start to complain about truly awful films and first up is Proud Mary. It’s a shame because I really wanted Proud Mary to be an amazing, fun movie that was John Wick with a woman of color kicking ass. Instead, I started in horror as Proud Mary turned out a bumbling homage to blacksploitation movies of the 1970’s. I will say this though, the one thing they did manage to nail is how awful the movies were when it came to plot, dialogue, and, well, everything.
Proud Mary stars Taraji P. Henson as an organized crime enforcer who ends up developing a soft spot for a kid and turns on ‘the family’ to help him. Sounds like the making of a great action movie overall, but it fails at nearly every turn. There’s absolutely no character development for Mary herself, meaning what you see at the beginning is what you get at the end. We never see her struggle with choices or change from a stone-cold killer to a protective mother figure. There’s no hero’s journey for her. Now, this would be forgivable if the kid she was protecting was at least endearing, but Jahi Di’Allo Winston is an insufferable brat throughout the movie. To make matter worse, the chemistry between the two is nearly nonexistent.
The issues though aren’t just from the performances though, especially since the script is so incredibly weak with what it gives the actors to work with. Pretty much every technical issue you can name comes up in this film. The pacing is incredibly awkward throughout it, only giving scenes enough time to let characters spit their lines out. It never gives the audience a chance to take in what’s happening, and luckily most will be smart enough to connect the dots because director Babak Najafi certainly doesn’t seem to want them too. In fact, it almost feels like he sees this movie as a chore and is trying to get it over with as quickly as he can. Unfortunately, this movie just can’t manage to be over with quickly enough.
As far as the action sequences go, Proud Mary left me with a furrowed brow as it failed to pay off in even that regard. The scenes might be fast paced, but they lack the creativity and hard-hitting brutality that recent action films have brought to the genre. Knowing that it would have to compete with these films Proud Mary makes little effort to even be a contender. Even without taking the current landscape of the action genre, Proud Mary never manages to wow just because everyone Mary goes against has the tactical prowess of a 5-year-old on a playground. She doesn’t look like a badass because she is. She looks like a badass because everyone around her is kind of pathetic in a fight. Even the main villains of the film never managed to truly intimidate. The best they can offer is making you feel mildly uncomfortable.
Like I’ve said before, January is a pretty sad month for new movies and Proud Mary is perfect evidence of that. The most entertainment it offers is giving you a movie that’s easy to make fun of. Otherwise, it’s an insufferable mess that is lacking in almost every possible way. It’s such an incredible disappointment that after so many recent tough women in great action roles, this movie stumbles and falls flat on its face. Proud Mary gets some points for diversity, but otherwise, it’s one I can’t recommend in good conscience.