Review: ‘Proud Mary’ (2018)

Wait. Are you tell me that Screen Gems has tossed us a neo-blaxploitation crime flick starring Taraji P. Henson in a Pam Grier/Tamara Dobson-style part and tossed in an assortment of character actor heavies for her to tussle with? Hell yes! This sounds like a gift from the movie gods! It can’t possibly be a dud, right?

Wrong. I know, it’s a bummer to hear, but sometimes the truth hurts. Now that we’ve processed such disappointment, let’s take a look at what Sony and friend shave actually handed us.

What we have here is another in a long line of films that see less-than-savory criminal types having a change of heart when faced with a child in need. Many a film has played in this very subgenre of action and crime cinema. The likes of Luc Besson’s Leon: The Professional, Boaz Yakin’s Safe, and especially John Cassavettes’ Gloria all come to mind. All of those films are great. Proud Mary is not.

Despite its willingness to roll around in a pile of genre tropes and draping itself in blaxploitation throwback stylings, Proud Mary is little more than a DTV action template filled out with a cast that is straight-up slumming it. Given the level of talent involved, this could have and should have been better. Henson is one of the best leading ladies we have today and she’s backed by a more than capable cast of supporting characters. Unfortunately, a good cast does not always make for a great film.

Proud Mary isn’t terrible, but if you’re in the mood for some neo-blaxploitation, I suggest looking elsewhere. When you have an excellent series like Marvel’s “Luke Cage” playing in this same mileu to far greater success, there’s really no reason to waste your time on what amounts to just another forgettable programmer. Here’s hoping this summer’s upcoming redo of Superfly fares better in that regard.

Proud Mary is an original crime thriller. It was helmed by Babak Najafi, from a screenplay by John S. Newman, Christian Swegal, and Steven Antin. The film was produced by Taraji P. Henson, Tai Duncan, Paul Schiff, and Andrea Ajemain. It stars Taraji P. Henson, Jahi Di’Allo, Billy Brown, Danny Glover, Xander Berkeley, Neal McDonough, Margaret Avery, Erik LaRay Harvey, and Rade Serbedzija.

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