Proud Mary (2018)

Proud Mary
Director: Babak Najafi
Writer: John Stuart Newman, Christian Swegal, Steve Antin
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Billy Brown, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Neal McDonough, Margaret Avery, Xander Berkeley, Rade Serbedzija, Erik LaRay Harvey, Danny Glover
Seen on: 17.7.2018

Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a contract killer and a damn good one. She never had any problems with doing her job but after she shoots Marcus Miller, she discovers that he has a son, Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) – and she finds that she can’t let him go, watching him from afar. Danny’s circumstances haven’t become better since his father’s death. He lives on his own and became involved in drug dealing, working for Uncle (Xander Berkeley). But when things go south on one of his deals, Mary steps in and takes Danny under her wing. The thing is that she does so by upending the entire balance of Boston’s underworld.

I was really looking forward to Proud Mary – and disappointed that it never made it to cinemas in Austria. Now that I’ve seen it, I understand why it was buried, though. It really doesn’t work.

The film poster showing Taraji P. Henson's face in pink-and-white, with characters and scenes from the film arranged around her head to make an afro, also in pink-and-white.

I had really high hopes for Proud Mary. I mean, watching Taraji P. Henson kick ass? What could go wrong? Well, a male director can go wrong, apparently. Much like Atomic Blonde, the film suffers incredibly from the male gaze. Only that in this case it’s not the hypersexualization of the protagonist that is so obviously a male fantasy, it’s Mary’s mothering instinct. And that sucked.

It could have been so good if Mary would have been allowed to just kick ass and be awesome and protect an innocent boy while she’s at it – why not?! But no, they had to spin it into some kind of “all women are mothers in their hearts and mothers give up everything for their children” plotline that just really, absolutely and completely BUGGED me. It’s so damn sexist.

Taraji P. Henson in the film.

And then, oh, then the film has the gall that Mary doesn’t even get to save herself in the end, can’t finish her troubles on her own. No, can’t have the female action hero be too competent. Can’t let her have what every male action hero gets because mumble mumble realism or something mumble.

But even if the plot hadn’t driven me to scream, there was also the fact that the quips and one-liners, hallmarks of action movies, fall completely flat. And they decided to actually use the song Proud Mary during the epic fight at the end of the film. And yeah, the film is probably named after the song, but the song just didn’t fit the moment at all. It was jarring – and that is putting it mildly.

And so the film wastes the entire potential it had (including Taraji P. Henson) and turns into a film that is mediocre in its best moments.

Taraji P. Henson and Jahi Di'Allo Winston in the film.

Summarizing: Disappointing.

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