Movie Review: Proud Mary
The only thing Proud Mary should be proud about is tricking good actors into being in a bad movie. This movie may be bland as hell, but I brought plenty of salt.
Since around the time Atomic Blonde dropped, Proud Mary has been on my radar. That first trailer just oozed style. I’m here to tell you, that trailer was a lie. It took about the only two minutes of this movie that weren’t a boring mess, set the highlight reel to music, and shamelessly tried to get you to believe that James Bond and Foxy Brown had a love child. Not only does Proud Mary not have any of the style that the commercials teased, it is boring. How boring? About an hour into the movie, I texted Neil “Proud Mary is boring as hell”.
Proud Mary (2018)
Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a hitter for Benny (Danny Glover), a Boston mob boss. Everything in Mary’s life is going according to plan until one of her hits leads to a young boy being orphaned on the streets. Mary decides to play guardian angel for this boy, which ends up starting a war with a rival gang of Russian dealers. Now Mary is besieged on all sides, trying to keep the truth from everyone while also keeping her head on her shoulders.
The above summary is a lot more exciting that 99% of Proud Mary. Unless you like cars. Then this movie is going to have you hot and bothered. For every one time Mary fires a gun (ostensibly her job) we get about five car commercials. Mary gets in a car. She drives somewhere. Then she parks the car. And gets out of the car. Babak Najafi films every fucking minute of it. And for all the car worship Proud Mary has, it doesn’t lend the movie any style! Pick any gangsta rap music video made in 1993 and the car worship on display has more culture and more swagger than this movie.
The other thing director Najafi likes to do: take scenic shots of ugly ass buildings. This movie is shot in Boston. One of those cities that can’t help but ooze culture. And Najafi spends all his time shooting brown, boring, bland as hell warehouse buildings. Najafi manages to capture so little of any of what makes the city unique that I bet he saved a buck and shot this film in Toronto. I’m surprised the scene where Mary treats the kid to a hot dog didn’t have round fucking bacon in it instead.
Mary Mary, Not Quite Contrary.
I loved Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures. I think she is a fantastic actress, and emotes like one of the best. It was painful watching her try to jam emotion into this nothing of a character. She kept trying to fill Mary up, and it all kept leaking out the bottom. The big theme of the movie seems to be family. Mary was adopted into a crime family, creates an orphan, then deals with that. But none of the writing makes anyone in this film real or relatable. All the important characters are just as one-note and shallow as the nameless Russians that Mary cashes out.
Lights (Car Placement), Camera (Car Placement), Action?
And how does Proud Mary do at cashing out all those randos? Meh. All of the action in Proud Mary is pedestrian, until the final scene. The final showdown between Mary and Benny’s gang is good. Plenty of slick stunts, blaring music, and headshots galore. That happens in the last five minutes of the movie. Way too little way too late. Everything else is just car shots and clunky dialogue. The only thing the finale made me feel was sad that Taraji P. Henson wasn’t being used in a better movie. She sold the sequence pretty well and definitely deserves a shot at a better action film; put her in Atomic Blonde 2: Atomic Boogaloo.
Bland As Retirement Home Pudding
This movie should have been so much more. It had talent. It had a premise that had both theme and style baked right in. That Proud Mary takes all that and comes out with some of the weakest sauce I’ve seen in a while doesn’t inspire pride. Quite the opposite. If you want culture and style, Watch Henson’s time on the TV series Empire. If you want emotion or a sense of time and place go watch Hidden Figures. But whatever you do, don’t get in your car, pull out of your driveway, drive to your local movie theater, park your car, and go see Proud Mary. Babak Najafi might film you doing so and use that footage for a sequel, something this film doesn’t deserve.
Now, If you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go see a man about a bear.