Movies really have only one job, and that is to not suck.
Proud Mary does.
It sucks and it hurts very badly.
Not in the same way that it hurts when you hit your foot against the table, or when you mistakenly cut off your finger with a bread knife. It’s not that simple.
Proud Mary hurts in the same way that it hurts to have lumps of hot coal forced down your throat while a reel of your life’s highlights flashes in front of your eyes as you die a brutal, eternal death.
THAT is how much Proud Mary sucks.
Proud Mary sucks so badly there’s really no way to effectively describe it to you but for you to see for yourself, but you don’t want to do that.
You don’t want to watch it for yourself because that’s 88 minutes of your life you’re never getting back.
Know what you can do with your life with a spare 88 minutes? Not watching Proud Mary! Anything but watching Proud Mary.
It’s not that Proud Mary is an irredeemably lifeless piece of garbage that has been weaponised to torment the souls of all who gaze upon it (at least I don’t believe that’s the intention); Proud Mary has heart, a little pea-shaped heart that could be deserving of the viewer’s time, attention, and love (if you’re that weak-willed).
However, the tiny amount of heart the movie can muster is badly attached to the wrong location in the body so that it suffocates it to a cruel unceremonious death.
I don’t believe there’s any way to do this movie any great justice, but I’ll do my best to extend to it the courtesy that it denied me for those painful 88 minutes.
Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a contract killer that works for an organised crime family in Boston. After killing a target in the very opening scene, she develops a sense of guilt for the dead man’s young son and keeps track of his life from a distance. (Let me just point out here that this movie would have made more sense if it was titled ‘Guilty Mary‘)
The opening 15 minutes of the movie passes like a montage of Mary making a host of bad decisions, just like the writers of this movie, all three of them who are credited for the screenplay.
One of Mary’s terrible decisions set in motion the major conflict of the movie as she rashly causes a gang war that makes her reevaluate her involvement with the crime syndicate headed by Benny (Danny Glover), who phones in his performance in that unspoken “I’m too old for this shit” demeanour.
Mary eventually takes the young boy, Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), under her wings and uses him as enough motivation to want to quit the family business.
Over what is the course of just a few days that the main story of the movie unfolds, Mary and Danny bond in a way that stupefies and exhausts the audience.
The movie makes relentless efforts to commit the artistic injustice of brashly forcing things that don’t feel earned, especially in the relationship between Winston and Henson.
On their own, both actors could be said to be fantastic; but their interactions, for the most part, are unmitigated disasters.
While it’s hard to remember seeing the pair share engaging moments that genuinely enthral (although it might have possibly happened), it’s way easier to remember the inane awkwardness that dominates their encounters.
It takes only a few of such encounters to realise that both characters just don’t have that chemistry that steams hot enough for the audience to really care.
Undeniably, most people got tickets to watch Proud Mary because Henson is the lead in it.
However, like me, many feel hard done by with the Henson that comes alive on the screen who struggles to sell that contract-killer attitude that the viewers deserved to see.
All of this is not her fault because even if Henson had aced her part, the movie would still have miserably failed her.
With Babak Najafi in the director’s chair, Proud Mary ends up becoming a charmless affair where the audience does a lot of enduring when the movie should be doing the entertaining.
The movie’s action sequences, which are supposed to be its selling point, are low in quantity and generally so visually incoherent that the audience is merely an unwitting mourner at the funeral of decent storytelling.
Perhaps, Proud Mary would be more impressive if it had been made into a 5-minute music video that compresses all of its hogwash into something a little bit more tasteful.
Instead, the movie pisses all over the artistic spirit of its lead actress and the goodwill of its audience.
If you’re brave enough to watch Proud Mary to the very end, the one burning question you’ll be left with is, “Who do I meet for a refund?”