“Proud Mary” stars Taraji P. Henson as an assassin-with-a-heart-of-gold. She also serves as executive producer of this action thriller. The story is about Mary (Henson), a Boston-based veteran assassin who takes a 13-year-old street urchin, Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), under her tattered wing. Her mother instincts overriding her better judgment, she becomes his protector and in the process tries to liberate herself from a lifetime of regret. Henson is an actress of great skill; she plays the character as a highly skilled killer who has grown sad and weary. However, as a thriller “Proud Mary” doesn’t come close to doing her justice. It’s going to do great on an OTT platform, and at a mere 88 minutes, it flies by quick enough. Henson is the one who holds it all together.
Mary meets Danny when she orphans him by killing his no-good father. Trained by the street, the kid is already an accomplished junior criminal, a true survivor, who works for a local man played by Xander Berkeley. Danny’s situation brings out the maternal instinct that Mary has been aggressively repressing her entire life, as she was herself a lost soul who was rescued by Benny (Danny Glover), a gangster who trained her to be an assassin and made her part of his criminal family. Vicious and full of hard biting “snakes,” it’s a nest that no one is allowed to leave.
Glover, 71 years-young, gives an arresting performance. He’s a tall man and able to play with the tone of his delivery, almost seeming kind until he’s angry and then the evil oozes out, clearly marking him as the monster with a smile. His true nature reveals it’s clear why Mary would want to be free of him, and, what’s more, why she’s still running from her romance with Benny’s heartless son, Tom (Billy Brown). They’re her past and present, but she wants a different future.
Henson gives Mary depths to her bravado. When she finally confronts her enemies, one by one, you feel the weight of each pulled trigger. Henson is an artist, not a “movie star,” which may be why this role as an action star isn’t a better fit. Her ability to bring out truth and complicated layers makes it hard to believe that she’s just a lethal weapon.