So, in light of my review on “The Last Jedi”, I needed a definite break from what I consider to be a very mediocre movie viewing experience. The next really publicized movie on the list was “Proud Mary”. To be honest, I’ll say up front that it was an average movie in terms of the story writing and just the whole Hollywood formula that movie executives insist on sticking to, but definitely an improvement over “The Last Jedi”. Now not to compare these to movies from two different genres but just speaking of the storytelling in general. It was a much better experience and worth a second viewing for sure.
“Proud Mary” is a story about Mary who has subsequently been raised inside the underworld of gangsters and as payback she is commissioned to work for her crime family in keeping its affairs in order via asset management and hitwoman duties. The latter, it turns out, she is extraordinary at. This is probably the primary premise of the movie and the director does a good job of displaying her skills as a cleaner. Of course there is an Achilles heel that comes up in the form of her getting in touch with her inner motherhood when she takes on the son of one of her victims and decides that she will do whatever it takes to protect him. This comes in direct conflict with her employers as well as other rival factions as they all seek to eliminate the boy due to his inadvertent involvement in some of the organization’s criminal activities. This pits Mary directly against the very same people who have trusted her to be a part of their family and organization. That pretty much constitutes the plot. Mary seeks to free her and the young man from the clutches of evil men at all cost.
This is a seemingly simple plot but the main point is that it is told very well and the movie direction was executed effectively enough to be convincing as a good story. Often times people complain of simple plots but, as I said before, a story well told does not have to be complex and full of twists. As a matter of fact the more complex the plot the better the story needs to be told. And this is where a lot of Hollywood stories I think are missing the mark.
Mary, the titular character played by Taraji Henson, is another commentary on strong female characters in modern day cinema. This is another subject I may write an article on, but I think it’s really becoming a heavily pushed agenda. And you know what, that’s quite alright as long as it’s relevant and is expressed in a good story. Most people write from a theme or point of commentary but just simply miss the good points of storytelling. That small rant out of the way, Taraji does a good job of playing up the role of a highly skilled and tough as nails killer who finds a place of humanity within her blackened heart. She manages to be convincing at relaying the fact that she just murdered some child’s father. Once she lays eyes on him everything changes, or at least doesn’t seem so black and white. I was sold on her reaction and it set the pace for the rest of what was to come as far as her decisions.
Speaking of decisions, we have the main object of Mary’s affection as well as confusion in the form of Danny (Jahi DiAllo) who ends up on the streets and working for the rival crime family to Mary’s as a direct result of one of her hits gone wrong. I know many folks can be tough on child actors, but DiAllo held his own and was convincing enough as an orphaned kid who is caught doing what he has to do to survive. Perhaps the most convincing moments were the showings of his intent at getting revenge for his father’s death and the very imminent dangers to Mary. I ultimately enjoyed the bond between the two of them. Familiar plot with good heart tugging moments.
As far as familiar plots go, we have Danny Glover’s character of Benny (the head of the crime family who Mary works for) and his son Tom, a former lover of Mary’s. These two head the crime family and are relatively ruthless and shrewd in their rule. Throughout the film, they remind Mary that she could never leave the “family” despite her intent and situation. They have no qualms about killing the boy to prove their point either. Anywho, they of course come to odds with other crime bosses as a result of Mary’s actions to save Danny and the whole thing turns into a bloodbath…of course. Hey, can’t knock everyone for trying to recreate that wonderful “Godfather” movie magic. It was good to see Danny Glover back on the big screen after such a long absence and I hope to see him more soon. As far as his portrayal, he was convincing enough to make me say “Ok, he gotta die.” Billy Brown as Tom, played a decent role of an impetuous son who wouldn’t let go of Mary and simply begged his father to let him kill everyone in the movie. Speaking of killing, there’s an excellent scene of Tom and Mary mowing down their enemies “Leon: The Professional” style. It was satisfying to say the least.
Other honorable mentions are Margaret Avery, Xander Berkeley, Rade Servedzija and Neal McDonough all of which were supporting cast and primarily played gangsters with the exception of Avery who played the wife of a gangster. I’ll say, the actors mentioned are excellent in whatever they play and they seem to underestimated in Hollywood in my humble opinion, especially McDonough.
There were many things about the movie I thought was well executed. It was a solid, yet familiar, story that pushed a little more away from some of the regular gangster memes. Glover and crew managed to be convincing as what I would somewhat describe as a traditional crime family. It makes you wonder though, would a black crime family appear in the “Godfather” manner of managing the underworld. I’m not sure I know of such real life examples, but they pulled it off as being clean and organized. Like I mentioned above, Glover was a heartless jerk along with the other crime leaders and he felt in control of all aspects of what was happening. So, those traditional themes worked for this movie with the addition of Mary and Tom adding a sleek, next level hitman/hitwoman feeling to it. What I mean is that they almost felt like they received some special forces training, not crude ruffian street training. This seemed effective and relevant considering the world we currently live in. You watch “The Untouchables” and think, wow, what a bloody mess they’re making. And you’re appalled to see a little girl blown up by a bomb during an assassination. People were outraged at such a thing and wouldn’t tolerate it in today’s society either. So, organized crime has had to become cleaner and efficient with their killing methodology. That’s what makes sense for the style of attack administered by Tom and Mary, though we get at least one drive by for good old fashioned gangster action.
The other dynamic of the movie is the relationships surrounding Mary. Mary, having been raised to think in terms of crime was never really given a chance to explore a typical growing up as a young lady and this is an automatically built in plot point. Before the opening scenes, we don’t see her day to day life and how she would typically behave, but we see later that she ultimately felt trapped by her lifelong circumstances. She just needed a catalyst to do something about it. Enter the unfortunate and freshly orphaned Danny who, upon Mary seeing, instantly becomes that catalyst that changes everything for her. Because she is able to watch him for a time and because he is an orphaned child just looking for someone to love him, they develop a bond in a relatively short time that propels them into a desperate attempt to escape the clutches of evil. I really wanted them to be together and to get the hell out of dodge. It was all too necessary.
Mary’s other relationships, her complicated relationships, were compelling enough as we see her fight off the control that Tom so desperately wants to exert over her. He’s supposedly still in love with her from their previous relationship though they were technically raised as brother and sister. He gets genuinely creepy at certain points and it becomes clear that she’ll have to deal with him and his loose canon ways. Likewise with Benny the boss, we get the whole ‘I gave you everything and you owe me your life’ speech. As mentioned before, the storytelling gave us sufficient enough reason to want all of the bad guys gone, especially these two. It work – an anti-hero hitwoman who has a change of heart and pulls out all stops to save herself and the little boy she’s grown undeniably fond of. It’s an exploration into the hidden bond between a mother and child and the maternal instincts that will crush you if you get in the way of that.
“Proud Mary” is nothing we haven’t seen before. Some gangsters in a tentative peace which is disturbed by a brooding member of the crew who decides they’re sick of being bad and figures a way to get out via meeting someone they fall in love with and saves them from certain death because they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s kind of typical Hollywood production template at this point I think. Again, if that’s what Hollywood wishes to continue doing then that’s their business and it’s not our right to tell them what to do with their money and their time. We can all just go and watch some artistic endeavors in other venues, then maybe they’ll decide to break from the norm once ticket sales drop. My point is, it’s relatively a generic plot, in a generic setting, with generic characters (Tom and Mary), with good actors and decent direction thrown in to save it. Again, good storytelling is the key and the movie does ok on that point, but nothing mind blowing.
If you’re into good popcorn, saturday afternoon, we got some free time activities, this isn’t a bad event to attend. It won’t change your life or have a profound impact on society, but it is entertaining. I suspect the target audience for this movie is guys who are totally into Taraji and and pretty good action and those women who crave good representation of strong female characters being represented on the big screen. I think both those concepts worked for me. Overall though, a good flick. I would definitely go for part 2. Let me know what you think below in the comments.
***Scale of 1-10: 6.0
|Directed by||Babak Najafi|
|Music by||Fil Eisler|
|Edited by||Evan Schiff|
|Distributed by||Screen Gems|
|Running time||88 minutes|
I read all of your articles and you never cease to amaze me with your impeccable writing ability. I wish more people appreciated your work. Keep writing. The people will come.