Why Taraji P. Henson Deserved Better Than 'Proud Mary'
"There always has to be some bullsh*t storyline about how she's broken or yearning to have a family. I'm over it."
January 17, 2018 at 2:24 am
Last year, Sony Pictures began running promos for what appeared to be a shoot 'em up, kick-ass female action hero film starring our favorite auntie, Taraji P. Henson. The film is called Proud Mary. I, like most of the black corners of the internet, was hype AF to see this film. How long had it been since we'd seen a black woman lead an action movie? I can't even think of one. Maybe Pam Grier in the blaxploitation era? The point is, it's been a LONG time. Not only were we getting a black leading lady, but we were getting Taraji P. Henson, a long-underrated actress that finally got the attention she deserved with her role as Cookie on the Fox show Empire. Black folks have known about Taraji for decades, but it seems that until you please white people, your career doesn't really take off in the entertainment industry. Taraji finally got her shot to be in a big film that appealed to everyone, not just black people, and we were ready for it.
So, when January 12, 2018 rolled around and Proud Mary was finally released, I was front and center with my ticket. I settled into the movie theater to watch what, in my mind, was already the best action movie of the year — and boy was I disappointed.
About 10 minutes into the film, I already knew that the movie was about to be a load of crap. Bluntly put, this film is terrible. Not only is it terrible plot-wise, but they cheated Taraji out of being an action hero. This movie was marketed to us as if it was a modern-day blaxploitation action film. The promos, the trailer, the music, the look — it was was all in reference to blaxploitation. A more modern comparison would be 2017's Atomic Blonde. We thought it would a movie with a female lead kicking ass. What did we actually get? 90 minutes of Taraji playing a broken, sad and weak black women with 10 minutes of "kind of" good fighting at the end.
The whole time I was watching this film, I was trying to figure out when the fearless black woman was going to show up. She never did. Mary (Taraji), is part of a gang — problem number one. She's not even a "good guy." She's just a hired hitman for a drug cartel. A black person involved with drugs and killing people? Very original. Wow, innovation, I tell you.
Mary is ordered to kill someone we know nothing about, and after doing so, finds out he has a son. So of course the entire film is about her and this child, Danny (Jahi Di'Allo Winston). Mary and Danny develop a mother-son type of relationship which leads Mary to fight for his life — in the last 10 minutes of the film. During the rest of the film, she's crying, getting shot, whimpering in a corner or scared of the big bad boss, Benny (played by Danny Glover).
Taraji deserves better than this weak film. We deserve better. While I watched the last 10 minutes of the film, with Taraji jumping out of cars, walking through a wall of bullet fire and beating up men, I asked myself, "Why they didn't just give us 90 minutes of this?" Do we need to go down the list and name all the films that white women, white men, and even black men, get to star in that's just pure action? Why are black women not allowed to have the same? There always has to be some bullsh*t storyline about how she's broken or yearning to have a family. I'm over it. Taraji, just being Taraji, is already an action hero enough. This film should have been Mary kicking ass and leaving n*ggas in the dust. And no shade to the kid who played Danny, because he did a great job, but sir, why are you here?
Taraji could have given us the black girl James Bond type character we all wanted, but no. Instead, we were given mediocre trash about a gang hitman who has a maternal itch in her uterus. F*ck outta here. Oh, and let's not forget the controversy about how Sony didn't screen the film for critics, and also didn't run a lot of promo for it, either. It was clear that Sony's mind was made up from the beginning that this film wasn't worth their time or money, and as a result, we got mediocre.
I'm not blaming Taraji for this. She did a great job with the material she was given. And I urge people to still go watch it, simply to support Taraji and her hard work. Taraji said in an interview that they didn't have time to do any fight training, so she relied on her dance background for fighting sequences. Maybe that is the reason we ended up with a no-action action film. Whatever the excuse is, I don't really care. Black women deserve a kick-ass action hero, and Taraji deserved a better film.