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  Proud Mary Shooting Star
Year: 2018
Director: Babak Najafi
Stars: Taraji P. Henson, Billy Brown, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Neal McDonough, Margaret Avery, Xander Berkeley, Rade Serbedzija, Erik LaRay Harvey, Danny Glover, Adobuere Ebiama, Owen Burke, Bo Cleary, Therese Plaehn, James Milord, Alex Portenko
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a hitwoman who last year performed a mob execution in a Boston apartment only to realise as she had succeeded that she had also made a little boy an orphan too. Over the following few months till now she makes a point of keeping an eye on the boy, Danny (Jahi Di'Allo Winston), as he drifts into a life of low-level crime, making illegal deliveries for various lowlifes, but one day he pulls a gun on his boss and steals a lot of cash from him. His guardian, so-called Uncle (Xander Berkeley) beats him, so he runs away to be found by Mary who thanks to her conscience takes him in...

She is still a hitwoman, it should be noted, and it also should be pointed out this was a conscious attempt to recreate the out of character thriller from John Cassavetes called Gloria from back in 1980. Therefore the decidedly non-motherly Mary is allowed to give in to her maternal side when she has someone to look after, much as Gena Rowlands did in the eighties original, though this item was more of an action flick. Such a movie starring Henson would have most film fans, casual and dedicated alike, rubbing their hands together in anticipation, but somehow it failed to find many marks.

Certainly Henson was a talent worthy of her own starring roles, and turning her into a female Samuel L. Jackson equivalent was not such a bad idea and a nice change from the sober minded drama she had been appearing in at the time, yet there was a dearth of scenes that truly capitalised on her distinctive style here; watch her in interviews and she was a sparky personality you would have thought would translate to a compelling anti-heroine in these surroundings, but you only saw flashes of that attractiveness as she was lumbered with a lead who was more of a wet blanket than, say, a fiery Pam Grier.

There's a reason to bring that previous cult star up, as the opening credits indicated we were in for a throwback to those golden days of blaxploitation which Miss Grier had graced back in the seventies, indeed you could say she bestrode the genre like a female colossus for about five years of box office bonanzas. Imagine Henson as a Coffy or Foxy Brown type and any fan of the era would be saying to director Babak Najafi "Shut up and take my money!", but while those titles were arranged in a cod-vintage style as the Temptations played on the soundtrack, after that the plot unfolded in an unforgivable gloom that did neither the cast nor the action any favours when you were straining to pick out what was supposed to be happening scene by scene.

All the way through you will be hoping at some point someone will switch a light on, most helpfully the "big light" so we can see the actors illuminated, but it never happens. Even outside in broad daylight it's tough to see what's going on, surprising when they're shooting (as in film) in the sunshine. Add to that a tone that started dejected and only lifted as the end credits were rolling, and the sense of anything goes entertainment you would get in a trashy seventies thriller was glaringly missing. When Mary takes Danny under her wing, it prompts her to opt out of the life of crime, but in that old cliché, every time she tries to get out, they keep pulling her back in, godfather figure Danny Glover with his claws in, and old flame Billy Brown trying to reason with her about staying in an entirely unreasonable situation. The results resembled a straight to video action drama of the nineties, and while it passed the time, it also missed some major opportunities, filling a ninety-minute gap, giving Henson fans something to watch, but that was about it. Music by Fil Eisler, along with some oldies, including Tina Turner doing the title track.

[Sony's DVD has three short featurettes and some trailers as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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