So, this weekend I discovered I had fried the i7 processor that runs the machine that I make my art work and podcast with. As a habitual tinkerer, I got it in my head that I could take a tried and true formula, make it cooler, run smoother, fit my needs a little better. So, along with a new video card, and a new silent case, I picked up a fantastically rated and impressive silent CPU cooler. Yet still, it crashed. Where did everything go wrong? How does this relate to Proud Mary, the new film starring Taraji P. Henson? That will be made a bit clearer before we’re through.
The Proud Mary of the title (Taraji P. Henson) is a hit-woman working for an organized crime-family in Boston. Mary’s life is completely turned around when she meets a young boy, Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), whose path she crosses after a professional hit goes awry. The basic story reads like the opening lines from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. If only the story were as campy.
It’s odd, everything about this movie promises a cheesy-fun, 80s inspired action flick. Stylized opening, goofy script, the main character being named after a song, a powerhouse of charm and acting in the lead role. On paper, everything is here to make for an entertaining watch. Unfortunately, in the execution something a little more serious was made, leaving a final product that just does not know what it wants to be.
I’m just going to come right out and say it; Taraji P. Henson was wasted in this movie. Her talent couldn’t save what was clearly a misunderstanding of the movie they were making. Does she elevate what the final product was? Sure. But that doesn’t change the fact that this could have been her Lethal Weapon, or Die Hard. Instead, we get a muddled mess riddled with angst and clunky writing.
Jahi Di’Allo Winston was charming, and did a great job as the piece that moves the story along. Billy Brown walks a line of being likable and mildly threatening, but he really gets lost in the shadows cast from the bad lighting used on American treasure Danny Glover. Glover, by the way, stars as a grandfatherly mob boss who has no problem offing a fool with ease. It’s a good cast, really, but unfortunately no one is being challenged or pushed to make something great here.
The production of this movie seems to be where everything falls apart. As mentioned before, the production team seemed to have the biggest issue lighting Danny Glover. The opening credits promise a fun romp, but that’s where it stops and becomes more of a drama rife with clichéd action movie dialog. The gun battles – of which there were only two – were another wonderfully constructed element which gets lost in just how OK the rest of the movie is.
The final gun battle best illustrates this frustration: everything is serene one moment, Mary steals her resolve, BOOM she’s in the car and we are already well into the song of Proud Mary, being sung by someone other than Tina Turner. It all feels like such a miss. The potential is there and hard to ignore, they just don’t pull it off.
This experience was a real shame. As a viewer I can honestly say that some of the best moments of the movie actually come from the audience. The *GASP* and other audible exclamations that there isn’t quite an alphabet built for, brought a smile to my face. Proud Mary does exactly what I ended up doing with my computer. A trusted format, a proven cast, and components that have been known to work cannot withstand the keen skills of a tinkerer who believes they can make something better.
Sometimes, you just need to call in a professional.
Starring Taraji P. Henson, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Billy Brown
Screenplay by John Stuart Newman, Christian Swegal, and Steve Antin
Directed by Babak Najafi