Proud Mary (R)

Suspense/Thriller 89 min. January 12, 2018
By April Wolfe
In this review, I'm going to mimic Proud Mary's structure by giving you no setup and speeding right into what I think are the good parts -- like the mind-blowingly good cinematography. I have no idea how the studio convinced Dan Laustsen to DP this lackluster, humdrum action melodrama, but I imagine it was with the same catnip they used to lure me into the theater: Taraji P. Henson, one of our greatest actors, playing a badass assassin. Really, no further information was really made public, including that the entirety of the story would revolve around a 12-year-old boy named Danny (Jahi Di'Allo Winston), for whom Mary (Henson) develops maternal feelings, a plot line that yields no emotional resonance because it's improperly set up from the first scene.

Laustsen (The Shape of Water) employs an artful use of natural light, as though it's always mid-afternoon on a slightly cloudy fall day. Henson's face is often a quarter in shadow, but her eyes -- her greatest tool for conveying emotion -- are always dramatically lit. This makes it even more unfortunate that director Babak Najafi (London Is Falling) doesn't allow the camera to linger on her face for too long without dialogue. It's as though he sees little value in the moments between words.

Proud Mary offers far too few action sequences. Still, Alonzo and Najafi manage to create one incredibly thrilling final fight, the first time in the film it seems like every department is in sync. In this finale, Henson is a ball of muscle and instinct, a powerhouse assassin every bit the direct descendant of Pam Grier and Marlene Clark.
Babak Najafi Taraji P. Henson John Newman and Christian Swegal Sony Pictures

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