Darke Reviews | Proud Mary (2018)

2nd review in a week. This is good. Not getting a Thursday night showing – not so good. It’s about as indicative as anything else when it comes to the industry. There are always signs they have no faith in a movie. Review Embargo’s until release day, no screenings for the press at all, and lesser known and of lesser impact to the box office take no Thursday night shows. It wasn’t too long ago the only early shows were the 12:01AM – which was technically Friday right? Eventually we got more 11’s, then 10’s, now 7 is the average. Special screenings may even get a 6, like I had with Last Jedi and will likely have with Black Panther next month. All of that said, the lack of a Thursday release even in January is never a good show of faith from the studio or the theatres.

The question you are here to find out is just how proud should Mary be?

The movie does invoke my Rule of Three when it comes to writers, with Christian Swegal in his first theatrical film, John Stuart Newman trying to move from daytime TV (Days of Our Lives) to movies, and Steven Antin (writer of Burlesque and actor of Troy from the Goonies). As I look at this creative team I come to understand some of the flaws in the movie, but first the story. This leans close to spoiler territory but I also need to do so to set expectations because the trailers for this one lied like a cheap rug. Mary is a hitter/heavy for a Boston crime family who takes in a kid she inadvertently orphaned during a job. In protecting the child lines are crossed and forced to be redrawn, but this comes with a body count and soul searching. Can she save the boy and maybe herself in the process?

Now, I said the writing teams credits explain much of the flaws. First and foremost, there is a fundamental flaw in the pacing which left me bored for much of the movie as this is not, and should not be classified as an action movie. This is a Mob movie. This is a Boondock Saints, but with a female lead. The action happens, but it is not the foremost element of the movie, the relationship drama is. At least one character apparently exists only to deliver every single trope line you have ever heard. To his credit he does and it works better than it has a right to, but his dialogue is so bad. The ideas they want to explore are all there and they clearly cared about the project, but couldn’t pull it all together into a cohesive clean story.

Bringing us to the last major flaw of the movie, the director himself Babak Najafi; the man who had the same chair for London has Fallen. You may ask where’s the link to the prior review, but I cannot provide it. The movie was so bland that I couldn’t even be arsed to write about it.  I haven’t seen his earlier work from Iran, so maybe with a smaller budget or other material he’s solid – here he is not. The pacing issues, beyond the script and some clunky scenes and dialogue, also are his fault as well. There was too much shot repetition, the action scenes were dull. Yes. Dull. They are cleanly shot and there’s no shaky cam, but they also don’t to have real weight or depth to them.  On top of that, there are some choices made for some of the actors that diminish the characters; which is unfortunate because of of the actors knocked it out.

Taraji P Henderson (Hidden Figures,  Empire) absolutely holds the movie together as it’s title character. She delivers every scene with a passion that was lacking in any performance from the earlier review this week. She plays with the complexity of the character well even if the direction during a handful of scenes detract from what is otherwise a stellar character.  Her chemistry with Jahi Di’Allo Winston is incredible. Winston, who plays the child Danny, has only a few TV credits to his name but would be wasted there. He elevates a simple childs role far and above what many his age (14) could do. We’ve seen this type of character before become an anchor or an albatross around the neck of a film. They are played as cute, annoying, or obstinate to the point of stupidity. Winston and Henderson navigate the waters well, and here’s one of the things both director and script got right. Every scene with these two is near perfect. There are of course other names I could mention, including Danny Glover or Billy Brown, but the real stars are the two I’ve mentioned.

The technicals here are a bit short, as the camera work is pretty solid overall with some good choices on when to do a close or a tracking shot. The music doesn’t overpower and supports the story – always good. The action as I mentioned is not as good as it could be, but isn’t horrible for what it tried. The pacing though is awful which left me waiting for it to end as it went through its four act structure.

TL;DR?

Proud Mary is a beautiful mess of good intentions and well wishing that gets an A for effort, but a C on its final tally. I wanted to like this movie a lot more than I did; granted being given a different movie than the trailers lead me to believe didn’t help. What helps the movie is how much everyone is trying. There’s real desire here to let the character beats breathe, let the camera help tell the story without any overt exposition. Unlike Commuter, which came across as a lazy pay check grab for everyone involved Proud Mary feels far more of someones passion project that didn’t quite end up the way they wanted. There are not nearly enough movies like this lead by non-white actors, much less actresses and I was hoping this one could change the tide.

Sadly it doesn’t look like it will. The studio has no faith nor does it’s marketing department. The final project tried so hard and didn’t stick the landing.

Should you watch it?

If you need a movie to watch this weekend – sure. Though depending on your local ticket prices you may want to wait to stream or rent it in a few months. I want to give this movie money, but it just isn’t quite good enough for an absolutely go see

Will you buy it?

Yeah actually. Like I said I do want to support it and projects like it, so Hollywood keeps trying to get better with them.

Why are you giving this one a pass?

Because I can see the effort. Every actor clearly was trying and no one phoned it in. That gets you miles of credit with me. Also because there are enough scenes I like that it warrants a “Well could have been better”  out of me versus a “That was awful”. Also original movie in a time when we still complain about everything being based on or a remake of something else – lots of credit.

Ok, so next week?

I am debating if I am taking next week off from new releases. Gerard Butlers next spin around the proverbial toilet (Den of Thieves) comes out next week and I am not sure if it warrants my time much less anyone elses.

I will however see Maze Runner: The Death Cure on the 25th or 26th. I don’t expect it to be good, but at two movies in I am committed to see it through. Also I like Dylan O’Brien.

 

Thanks again for reading, but overall Proud Mary will be a pass for the majority of folks. It’s close to really good, but didn’t quite get there.

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