Proud Mary (2018) Review: Wanting Cookie Lyon to Show Up

Proud Mary (2018) Review: Wanting Cookie Lyon to Show Up
courtesy of Screen Gems

I just knew this was going to be the rave! The black girl super power movie that we were all waiting for. I’m sad to say that Proud Mary disappointed me on many levels. Many of us expected to see Cookie Lyon on the screen or some other form of Taraji P. Henson’s great ambiance. But it never came. This film was directed by Babak Najafi, produced by Tai Duncan, Paul Schiff Screenplay by John S. Newman, and Christian Swegal and distributed by ScreenGems.

In the opening scene, Mary (Taraji P. Henson) was a bad mamma jamma in the shower, freshening up before her next kill. She was zippering up leather boots and putting on her makeup. The assignment was to kill a bookie that owed money to her black gang, run by Benny (Danny Glover). Inside the house, there was a boy playing Playstation that didn’t see her murder his father.

Mary feels guilty for the boy becoming an orphan. She follows the boy, who goes by Danny. A year later, she  finds him passed out in the alleyway from being assaulted. Danny was a money runner for Uncle, who is the head of a Russian gang in Boston.  For some reason Mary felt pity on him because she had never killed a child before and she saw herself in him. Mary had come from the streets and Benny’s family had taken her in.

After the Danny gets beaten, Mary confronts Uncle to straighten out the mess. She tells Uncle to leave Danny alone. Uncle says "maybe she can have him after he is used up, then maybe she can buy him" (like he is a slave or something). Obviously, Mary doesn’t bode well to this news and neither would Benny. But this would have never happened of she would not have tied up loose ends and taken care of Danny. She told Tom (Billy Brown), her old boyfriend/Benny's son that the bookie situation was taken care of.

At Uncle's place, one of the Russian men try to grab Mary and things get out of hand. She ends up shooting up the place and killing Uncle too. She has just started a war between gangs! Mary takes Danny to her place and tells him not to touch anything or go anywhere (especially guns). When Mary leaves, Tom comes into the apartment and starts asking Danny all kinds of questions.  Later, Mary pins Uncle’s crime on Walter (Neal McDonough), the only white man in their black gang and the obvious choice. He was also known to have a vendetta with Uncle.

At some point Danny explains that his mother left his father because he was a scum. Then his father was murdered. Afterward, he went to live with his grandmother.  Then, he took to the streets instead of going into the foster care system. That is Uncle found him.

Benny and Tom are scratching their heads trying to figure out who killed Uncle. Benny and the gang have a meeting with Luka (Rade Serbedzija), who is part of the Russian gang. Luka requests to have some territory in exchange for what happened to Uncle. Benny denies his involvement but vows he will get to the bottom of it. Luka attacks Benny and his gang after the meeting. Then, they retaliate. Mary wants out after the last assignment and tries to conceal Danny from being found out. Also, her past relationship with Tom gets in the way of her business, too. Mary has had enough and she wants out of the assassin business for good. But they will never let her leave!

Taraji P. Henson is the executive producer of this movie so she had a lot invested in hits film. Proud Mary is not a particularly well written script. Some of the choices for scenes I would have done differently. But it also has to do with dialogue.  I went to see the film more to support Taraji and to see how the script would hold up. The script didn’t do her justice, there was something lacking. It was hard for me to make solid connections with characters. I would have liked to see Mary more strategic with finding security with the Danny. Tom had easy access to her house and just let himself in. That’s when everything really fell apart. There was no code nor any plan on how she was going to protect the him. Danny was literally helpless even with a gun but didn’t know how to use it. Not being a mother herself, she was a nurturer, but lacked the wherewithall to protect the boy. Danny, however did think that he was man enough to take on the adult world, but he was inadequate.

This film is about family and saving youth, loyalty and regret, determination and survival, and finding oneself in the midst of tragedy and hopelessness.  The only thing that made this film okay was seeing Taraji in the kick-ass action scenes. That was all. I made some connection with her an the boy, but it was a weak one.

As far as the director is concerned, I haven’t seen any films that he has directed in and am wondering why they chose him for such a pivotal film. Not sure if it was the pest choice overall. In conclusion, Proud Mary was a disappointment because I KNOW Taraji to be an exemplary actress. This film just wasn’t up to par and I am confident that we haven’t seen her best work yet. I also was not too thrilled that I was unable to screen the film ahead of time either. I did left the movie theater feeling like somebody stole my lunch money. I would rate this film 2 and half stars.

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