By Khaleel Herbert
Proud Mary is a cross between Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver and Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself.
Taraji P. Henson plays Mary, a hitwoman working with a crime mob. Her first hit is a gambling bookie, a man she sees as just another hit until she finds his son, Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) lost in video games blissfully unaware of his father’s murder. A year passes and Danny works as a drug pusher for the head druggie, Uncle (Xander Berkeley), who isn’t pleased with Danny spending some of the drug money to feed himself.
Mary finds Danny passed out in an alley from his beating by Uncle. She takes Danny back to her apartment and decides to look after him. Mary goes after Uncle to “teach him some manners,” killing him and his goonies. But complications arise when Benny (Danny Glover), her boss who doesn’t know she killed Uncle, thinks this killing will start a war over territories. Mary works hard to throw Benny off her trail and Danny grows on her, forcing her to contemplate leaving Benny and the crime life for good.
Proud Mary drives on action and emotion. Mary resembles Baby in Baby Driver because she’s not the bad guy. Benny and his son, Tom (Billy Brown) are. She wants a better life for herself and Danny. Benny took in Mary when she was a little girl because she was an orphan like Danny. Also, Mary puts the pedal to the medal when she goes to fight the bad guys like Baby did.
Henson intertwines her motherly instincts into Proud Mary. Although Danny isn’t Mary’s son, she treats him like it, mirroring her role as Sherry Parker to Jaden Smith’s Dre in The Karate Kid, Katherine G. Johnson in Hidden Figures and April in I Can Do Bad All By Myself. She brings out her April-side more because she’s all about her hustle. She doesn’t care about raising children. She even says, “What am I gonna do with kids?” in I Can Do Bad All By Myself and a similar line in Proud Mary. But Danny, like Jennifer, Manny and Byron, melts her heart and she would do anything to protect him.
Proud Mary has the right amount of action. It may not be like Uma Thurman’s Kill Bill or Angelina Jolie’s Salt, but it’s enough because Henson knows how to handle a gun and give a good ass-beating. We also get a lot of heart in Proud Mary…something a lot of these newer movies are missing.
Studio: Sony (1 hr 29 min)
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, Billy Brown, Erik LaRay Harvey, Neal McDonough
Director: Babak Najafi
Story: Out of guilt, a hitwoman takes in an orphan boy a year after she killed his father.
Final Score: A+