Susan Granger’s review of “Proud Mary” (Sony/Screen Gems)
Everything old is new again! In the 1970s, the ethnic subgenre of action thrillers, starring black actors, was known as “Blaxpolitation” films. Exemplified by “Shaft,” “Cleopatra Jones” and “Foxy Brown,” they were originally aimed an urban audiences, but their appeal spread.
Now – with the rise of fighting female characters – Taraji P. Henson (“Hidden Figures,” TV’s “Empire”) takes the titular role as a ruthless African-American assassin who feels guilty about one particular hit for the Boston Mob.
Yet after killing his father, Mary does little to keep orphaned Danny (Jashi Di’Allo Winston) out of trouble – until she discovers him unconscious in an alley. Taking him home, she goes after the culprits who left him there.
That involves Mary’s boss Benny (Danny Glover), his feckless son Tom (Billy Brown) and, above all, her desire to discard the badass lifestyle that she’s sick of.
Working from a simplistic script, cobbled together by Steve Antin, John Stuart Newman and Christian Swegal, director Babak Najafi (“London Has Fallen”) never gets Mary’s Maserati in gear. The pacing’s poor and the lighting’s either too bright or too dark.
Plus, John Fogerty’s adamant that his 1969 hit song with Creedence Clearwater Revival and the title character have nothing in common, noting: “It irks me when people capitalize on the popularity of my music and the good will it has earned for their own financial gain…They simply picked the title and wrote a completely fictitious story around it.”
Fogarty clarified: “I wrote the song about a mythical riverboat, cruising on a mythical river, in a mythical time. It was obviously a metaphor about leaving painful, stressful things behind for a more tranquil and meaningful life…Far from a story about killing people for money.”
FYI: The term “Blaxploitation” was coined by former publicist-turned-Los Angeles’ NAACP head Junius Griffin.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Proud Mary” is an un-focused, faulty 4. Talented Taraji P. Henson deserves a better franchise.