Tina Turner, made the big hit song that brought pep to step and got people rolling when she crafted the song Proud Mary. Decades later, Hollywood is happy to bring a movie semi-inspired by the song, ready to storm this “holiday” weekend with another action/drama to stand up to The Commuter. A great move was to hire Taraji P. Henson, a fantastic actress who has the edge for this kind of drama given her track record in this field. But what else does this film have to offer given its low amount of advertising on cable and internet media? Robbie K here to shed some light on the subject and help you choose your viewing pleasure. Let’s go!
Acting Chemistry: One thing I love about African-American movies is how well the cast fits together in whatever project they making. Henson and crew feel like a mob family, the tension, the doubts, and the anger all similar to what I’ve seen in family affairs. It seemed to come so naturally to them, no overstretching of their talents to make the closeness work, selling to me that they were indeed a family. And when Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) joins the family, the young actor and Henson have another chemistry that seems naturally there complete with sass, pizazz, and edge.
The Writing: While I’m normally not the biggest fan of sass, annoying attitude, or bitter anger as the primary qualities in a character, Proud Mary did a nice job balancing these qualities. Their character development established the reasons for these attitudes, and the whole mafia element added the tension need to set the stage for these qualities. Even though the callousness got a little eye rolling at times, (a diluted version of the Godfather), I appreciate the tension and using it to work with the chemistry as opposed to just shock value. An even more impressive element, is that they were able to interject cursing into the lines without getting to the oversaturation point. Utilized for emphasis and to express how bad a situation was, the writers/directors accomplished the task of how one should watch their mouth and not over utilize the slang. Classy and edgy, a nice combination.
The Action: Yep, action junkies like me love this category, and Proud Mary is able to accomplish this category quite well in terms of storytelling. There are a couple of fantastic sequences to get the ball rolling, a nice blend of Taken and Wanted without the super gore factor. While these gunslinger scenes might not be the selling points for some, this film keeps it relevant to the plot and not just a careless waste of resources to add excitement to the list. The ending in particular will get you rolling like a river, with its emotional charge, character linkage, and pure on intensity of the scene. Plus, utilizing the theme song to amp up the Again props to this film.
Incredibly rushed: The problem with this film starts with a very rushed script, which is most likely due to the limited budget of the film. From the start, Mary’s emotional dilemma is dropped without much buildup, reduced to a quick opening scene and nothing more. Her career, her skills, her importance to the family, none of these have an inkling of development outside of a few scraps of dialogue tossed into the mafia like meetings that don’t last long. The background information on Danny’s issues, also a sliver of what it could be, just enough to get the point across, but lacking the power to pull your heart strings. This fast pace keeps the drama entertaining, but it’s lacking in terms of storytelling.
Inconsistent Emotion: The other issue with this movie, is the emotional inconsistency in this film in regards to the characters. Mary herself fluctuates between cold assassin, angry-ex, and mother love in a manner that represents some mood disorder. You understand the reasons why, but you don’t see enough even spread of these emotions to get the depth of her character. In regards to Danny, again the fluctuations are inconsistent as he goes from street hardened, gang busting vigilante to a whiny, arrogant brat whose about to drop tears. Given more time, this movie might have had the ability to stretch out these emotional moments and balance out there characters more. Fortunately, the actors are able to keep this roller coaster exchange in check, but it can’t save the direction the writers had them go.
Lackluster villains: The term bark is worse than their bite has never been truer in a movie. Proud Mary is all about powerful families running their business and trying to keep their territories in check. And like all the Mafia movies, you expect threats and dealing out those threats. In Mary’s world though, these guys are all about making threats without acting on them, giving people quite a few chances before they start to make a motion. Then you get to the action scenes, and again these skilled hitmen don’t seem to have any surmountable talent in comparison to Mary. Oh sure, it’s another example of superhero power, but the problem is…Mary was supposedly trained with some of these guys and they couldn’t do better. Again, these inconsistencies just don’t work as a whole with this film, but they at least provide some settings for excitement and adrenaline pumping gun-fu antics to show women assassins are freaking cool.
Proud Mary keeps on turning out a plethora of components to entertain the masses. The drama associated with the family is something many audience members will love, alongside the balance the writers established between pertinent action and storytelling components. However, this fast-paced film took some major shortcuts given their limited budget. While the movie is still entertaining, it suffers from the rushed pace in regards to character development, emotional balance, and background information that could have strengthened this movie. And while it is awesome to see another femme fatale appear in the studios, it would have only done it more justice if her bad guys had more bite. While the action scenes certainly bring the effects, this movie just doesn’t have everything together to warrant an absolute visit to the theater. This reviewer would recommend watching it at home
Movie Overall: 5.0