Taraji P. Henson is Mary, 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.
Rating: R (for violence)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By: Babak Najafi
Written By: Christian Swegal, John Stuart Newman, Steve Antin
In Theaters: Jan 12, 2018 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Apr 10, 2018
Studio: Screen Gems
As a haunted assassin who bonds with a kid, Taraji P. Henson has a humanity that trumps this watchable wad of B-movie formula.
“Proud Mary” is an assassin-with-a-heart-of-gold action thriller in which the sizzle doesn’t match the steak (or, in this case, the low-grade VOD-and-cable-ready B–movie hamburger). The sizzle is all about the blazing guns and badass attitude — about the film’s neo-blaxploitation credits and allusion to the anarchic Ike and Tina Turner version of the title song, about its showy and efficient but ultimately rather routine action sequences, and about the doleful swagger of its star and executive producer, Taraji P. Henson, who knows how to shoot a bullet into somebody’s chest by adding that special touch of mean-it fierceness.
Beneath the ballistic flash, though, “Proud Mary” is a rather desultory sentimental fable about a veteran Boston killer, Mary (Henson), who takes a 13-year-old street urchin, Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), under her tattered wing. She becomes his protector, and in the process tries to liberate herself from a lifetime of regret. Henson is the right actress to play a contract killer grown weary, but as a thriller “Proud Mary” doesn’t do her justice. It’s a connect-the-dots underworld trifle, watchable and minimal (at 88 minutes, it has time for about one-and-a-half plot twists), though Henson holds it together and, at moments, comes close to convincing you that you’re watching a better movie.
Mary meets Danny when she orphans him by killing his deadbeat father. The kid is already a precocious criminal, a survivor with a tough pout, who works for a local hood — played by the always appealing Xander Berkeley, though in this case trying out an unfortunate stage-Yiddish accent from the early ’60s. Danny’s plight brings out the maternal instinct that Mary has been repressing her whole life, ever since she was a lost teenager who got rescued by Benny (Danny Glover), the gangster who trained her to be an assassin and made her part of his criminal family. It’s a nest that no one is allowed to leave.