Proud Mary ★★★★

Hey, I liked this movie a lot, gang!

The plot here is nothing to write home about—hired killer adopts the son of one of her targets, tries to cover her tracks, and when that doesn’t work, tries to break from the business for good—but that doesn’t matter, for a couple reasons. One is the fact that at a crisp 88 minutes, this is one of the most efficient action movies I’ve ever seen; the plot and character beats may be well-trod, but the film uses that to its advantage, breezing past familiar tropes because it can, because it knows we’ve seen this before and is assuming we’re smart enough to figure out what’s happening. Some might find it hurried or rushed; I found it refreshingly brisk and lacking in the sort of narrative hand-holding that can often slow down a film.

Another reason the recycled plot doesn’t matter much is Taraji P. Henson, who may not be the action hero we, as a culture, deserve, but she’s damn sure the one we need. She is remarkably charismatic and confident in the role, effortlessly inhabiting both the physical action and the quieter character moments with equal ease. If there’s any justice in the world (there isn’t), she’ll be the next big action star.

The third reason I found this film so remarkable—and bear in mind here that, as a man, I may be speaking out of my ass—is that the film allows Mary (Henson’s hired killer) to be a badass and a woman at the same time. So often these films with badass female leads read like the screenwriters wrote the part for a man, and then search-replaced JIM with JOAN and called it good. Mary, however, is not a badass at the expense of being a woman, she is a badass and a woman. The two are not mutually exclusive, and it’s nice to see a film get that right.

My only complaint, really, is that the disco-70s-blacksploitation feel of the posters and the trailers ends at the opening credits. That’s a terrific aesthetic, and I would have loved to have seen it continued throughout the entire film.