• by Wes Singleton

Proud Mary, D

Rated R, 89 minutes

Taraji P. Henson carries swagger and charm in all she does, even in "Proud Mary," a mediocre action thriller vehicle that's in need of a lot of it, not to mention a good story and characters.

Mary (Henson) is a successful hitwoman working for an organized crime family in Boston. However, her life is completely shifted when she meets a young boy (newcomer Jahi Di’Allo Winston) whose path she crosses when a professional hit goes wrong and she leaves the boy orphaned.

At its best, "Proud Mary" has the charming Henson, at its worst, it's a complete mess, with some clear pacing and editing problems. It's directed by Babak Najafi ("London Has Fallen") with a script from John S. Newman and Christian Swegal, and is about a hitwoman who takes care a young boy that seems to rework a Denzel Washington movie from the early 2000's (I'm thinking "Man on Fire"). She finds herself in some deep trouble when a hit goes very wrong, inciting a mob war in Boston.

I'm completely on board with a ferocious actress like Henson as a hitwoman, but I'm not on board with "Proud Mary," which fortunately has nothing to do with the iconic Tina Turner song and rightfully so. The song itself has much more coherency than this stale action film, which seems to be modeled on the '70's blaxploitation ala "Foxy Brown," but it creates such a cardboard cutout of a character with no backstory we really have no idea who she is.

Winston is given little to do as the boy she cares for, and there are a few others wasted by the awful script: "How to Get Away With Murder's" Billy Brown as a former lover, Neal McDonough as a creepy colleague and Danny Glover as her mob boss. It does have some decent '70s tunes and a splattering of action in the finale, but otherwise, this is a forgettable, boring effort from all involved.

With the right material, Henson could really shine as a hitwoman, but this is not it. There's only so much the charming "Empire" actress could do, and she can't save the misfire that is "Proud Mary."

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