Main cast: Taraji P Henson (Mary Goodwin), Jahi Di’Allo Winston (Danny), Billy Brown (Tom), Danny Glover (Benny), Xander Berkeley (Uncle), Neal McDonough (Walter), Margaret Avery (Mina), Rade Serbedzija (Luka), and Erik LaRay Harvey (Reggie)
Director: Babak Najafi
Oh wow, Billy Brown is so hot in this movie. How come I never realized that before? If I were Mary Goodwin, this would be an X-rated movie and the world would be a better place as a result. That tall, hunky specimen and that sexy, manly voice…
Ahem. Oh yes, Proud Mary. The trailer made this movie seem like another female assassin gone wild film, but at its core, this is actually a solid emotional drama revolving around an assassin – that will be Mary, of course – who realizes that she wants out when she bonds with the young son of a man she killed a year prior. That kid, Danny, was playing video games in the next room when Mary gunned down his father, and she left before the boy could see him. Since then, something inside her snaps, and she realizes that she can’t be that hardhearted killer anymore. In her free time, she watches Danny from afar.
The boy soon falls into the wrong crowd, delivering drugs to and collecting payment from the clients of the man called Uncle. Uncle abuses the boy badly, and one day, Danny collapses from exhaustion and hunger. Mary takes him to her place and appoints herself as his mother hen. She tries to get Uncle to release Danny from service, but things don’t go so well, let’s just say, and Mary ends up putting a few bullets into Uncle as well as his men.
This creates a big problem because Uncle is not only an employee of the Russian crime boss Luka, he is also Luka’s cousin, and you know those Russian mobsters don’t play nice. Mary works for Benny, who took her in when she was an orphan, and now, Luka suspects that Benny had Uncle killed as part of an effort to seize Luka’s territory. A turf war will break out unless Mary finds a way to defuse things while getting both her and Danny out of the crime scene.
Taraji P Henson is easily the MVP here. She is the leading actor in this cast, and she damn well carries the whole thing to the finish line with fine aplomb. She does kick-ass just fine, but she especially knocks it out of the park in her more emotional scenes with Jahi Di’Allo Winston who plays Danny. That kid, by the way, is not at all annoying, thank goodness. In fact, Danny comes off like a believable, realistic kid most of the time, and young Mr Winston and Ms Henson play one another off very well here.
Meanwhile, Danny Glover plays the genial crime boss well – it’s quite frightening how he easily switches from gentleman to tyrant in the blink of an eye. Billy Brown doesn’t have much to do here, but hmm, that man is so fine, all he has to do is to just stand there – with his clothes on, mind you – and my life is complete. I can’t believe he’s the same annoying, not-hot-at-all dumbass military dude in House of the Dead 2 – this is one man who just gets hotter as he ages.
What doesn’t work as well in Proud Mary is the thriller aspect. Every time the movie shifts focus away from the emotional drama of Mary and Danny, it sinks like an anchor into the sea. For a supposedly super-talented assassin, Mary is bewilderingly indiscreet with her guns, to the point that she apparently doesn’t even lock her gun collection and is perfectly fine with Danny messing with her weapons. She is also quite negligent when it comes to making sure that her house is safe and secure for Danny’s sake, and all in all, the crime and gun stuff feels like third rate filler materials to pad the movie. The choreography of the gun-fu scenes and even the way Ms Henson holds her guns don’t seem too convincing or authentic.
At any rate, Proud Mary will work or don’t depending on what one is looking for. As a drama, it’s solid. As a thriller, it’s… well, let’s just say that it could have been better – so much better. Ms Henson can deliver the goods and I’m a fan, but she deserves a better star vehicle than this thing.