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Taraji P. Henson Is Proud Mary's Only Redeeming Factor

Taraji P. Henson Is 'Proud Mary's' Only Redeeming Factor

Taraji P. Henson Is 'Proud Mary's' Only Redeeming Factor

Proud Mary is packed with action, but little else.

Taraji P. Henson was pretty much the only reason I wanted to see Proud Mary. I’ve followed her career since 2002 when I was still in high school and completely obsessed with a show on Lifetime called The Division. I remember seeing Henson back then and being immediately invested in her character. As a fan of her work, I knew she’d go on to do big things...

...which makes giving Proud Mary such low marks a real chore for me.

As I mentioned, Henson was the only reason I wanted to see this film. And she really is the only thing about it that makes buying a ticket worth it.

The film starts strong with a montage of Henson’s Mary pulling off an array of looks. She’s got a pair of boots, a gun, a wig, and a shade of lipstick for every occasion. Right from the start, you know this character is not one to be messed with. And then we get to the catalyst for everything that comes after: Mary takes out a guy in his home, only to find a young and oblivious kid named Danny (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) waiting in the wings.

From there, things get a little murky.

The film is set in the Boston area and follows Mary as she tries to appease her conscience over killing Danny’s father. Tapping into her repressed mothering skills, Mary finds herself caring more about Danny than about serving her surrogate crime family.

Essentially, what you get in Proud Mary is a woman at a crossroads: what happens when a trained assassin encounters a child who needs looking after? Does she turn the other cheek or do what she knows is right? It’s a battle of nature versus nurture. Mary has to decide whether her conscience trumps the crime family she was trained to be loyal to. In Danny, she sees herself and a future beyond organized crime, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that she takes lives for a living.

Henson is great as the cold-hearted assassin turned mother figure, and Winston matches her passion and intensity. The rest of the cast, however, falls flat, especially Danny Glover who’s completely unbelievable and uninspired as Mary’s crime boss Benny. 

Overall, Proud Mary is fun. As an action film, Proud Mary does what it must to capture your attention. There’s loads of fight scenes, gun brawls, and cars spinning way out of control. And yes, Mary is at the center of it all.

The relationship between Mary and Danny is where the emotional meat of the film is, though, and audiences will revel in the hilarious banter between the two. I, personally, could have done without the rest. The film didn’t quite deliver on its promise; it’s much less about Mary than it is about her current predicament—and that’s to say that she feels forced to choose between the dangerous life she’s built for herself and rescuing a child.

Perhaps the film would have found better footing had it been set post-rescue, so audiences could see what life after organized crime could look like for Mary and Danny. To me, that would have been a more interesting, and maybe even more triumphant, story. How do an orphan and a former contract killer make a clean break? We’ll probably never know.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Tm Obscura

TM Obscura is a writer with a passion for pop culture and a penchant for analysis. She frequently covers film, television, and representations of women in the media.

TM Obscura is a writer with a passion for pop culture and a penchant for analysis. She frequently covers film, television, and representations of women in the media.