Proud Mary (3 stars)

Proud Mary

Taraji P Henson is on fire in a brisk but unmemorable crime thriller

Following in the wake of seismic hit Black Panther, Proud Mary would seem ideally placed to capitalise on an appetite for strong black ensembles, however, this hit-woman crime flick is seldom on-target. Fresh from Hidden Figures, Taraji P Henson is perfectly cast as feisty Boston enforcer Mary Goodwin, but she's one of the few elements of director Babak Najafi's thriller that clicks.

Goodwin is first seen getting her considerable armoury locked and loaded in a funky credit sequence set to The Temptations' classic cut 'Papa Was a Rollin' Stone', raising hopes of a spruce B-movie like Set It Off, or even Jackie Brown. But Goodwin is saddled with a cliché curse that's afflicted hit-men and women too regularly: a cute kid called Danny (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) who Mary inadvertently orphaned a year previously. Keen to protect Danny from the ongoing turf wars in her Boston neighborhood, Goodwin's attempts to shield him from her bosses only lead to bloody confrontation.

Proud Mary boasts a richly evocative poster and trailer, which play up its blaxploitation leanings but, as with Najafi's previous thriller London Has Fallen, events collapse into unmemorable back-room face-offs and murky corridor fisticuffs. The small-scale nature of the melodrama is at odds with the action, which racks up a John Wick-level body-count that sits uneasily with Proud Mary's core values of motherhood and protection.

With one-liners, a kick-ass car and a cocksure way of dispatching goons, Henson is a formidable female deserving of a better (cinematic) vehicle, a disconnection somehow worsened by overqualified support, including Color Purple alumni Danny Glover and Margaret Avery. At least Proud Mary delivers on its shopworn promise: the heroine is wronged, riled, and puts things right in brisk fashion. In a time of bloated blockbusters, the no-nonsense approach offers minor pleasures for genre fans, if little else.

General release from Fri 23 Mar.

Proud Mary

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 1h 29min
  • Directed by: Babak Najafi
  • Cast: Taraji P Henson, Billy Brown, Jahi Di'Allo Winston
  • UK release: 23 March 2018

Mary Goodwin (Henson) is a Boston enforcer who has to protect a young boy after a hit goes wrong. Unfortunately, despite Henson's great charisma, a promising premise collapses into unmemorable backroom face-offs and murky corridor fisticuffs; ‘no nonsense’ sometimes means ‘lack of ambition’. Still, it has minor pleasures…