Movie Review

It's tough to balance career and family. Especially if you're an assassin.

Maybe that's why Mary never had children of her own. It's hard to shlep the kids off to soccer practice after a hard day of killing. Baking brownies for the PTA? Yeah, try to find the time to do that when you've got to scrub all that blood out of your hair.

It's not like Mary doesn't like kids. She loves 'em—so much so that she has a strict "no murdering children" clause in all of her contract killings. She's ethical like that. Why, she's even taken a shine to a particular kid she met one afternoon while on the job.

Well, met, perhaps, is too strong a verb. She did see Danny when she shot his dad in the head—a young lad of 12 obliviously playing video games in the next room. She always felt bad about leaving the boy to clean up the emotional (and perhaps physical) mess thereafter. So she kept tabs on the kid, maybe just to make sure he didn't get into too much trouble.

OK, so the tabs she kept were a little … loose. Or perhaps Mary didn't think that becoming a drug mule for a notorious Russian mobster at age 13 qualified as "trouble." At least Danny had supervision. Presumably he was getting fed and watered. He was learning a trade. Things could be worse, right?

But then Mary notices Danny lying unconscious in the middle of an alley, and she decides to take a more direct role in the boy's life. She takes him home with her, feeds him some scrambled eggs, then chauffers him back to the secret pad of a man who goes by the name Uncle—so she can have a little (ahem) talk with the guy.

Several gunshots and a few corpses later, Mary realizes that the conversation could've gone better.

See, Uncle was simply a middleman for a massive Russian underworld organization. And, generally speaking, antagonizing ruthless killers like these is a bad idea. Even worse: Mary works for a rival underworld gang, and the two crime clans have been at wary peace with one another. Seems that the unexpected offing of Uncle could upset the delicate balance between the two gangs.

But hey, Mary's not about to let a little business tension get in the way of her relationship with orphans, particularly one she orphaned herself. That's right: Mary's a surrogate mother now. Her nurturing instincts have been triggered, and she knows more than a thing or two about triggers.

You know what they say: Don't step between a mama bear and her baby. Especially when mama bear has a closet full of guns.

Positive Elements

Say what you want about Mary's career, but don't doubt her affection for Danny. She loves the little lad: Not enough to, y'know, take him to a doctor after he passes out in the street or to send him to school, admittedly. But enough to fix him eggs and buy him hot dogs and kill half the population of Boston for him.

Spiritual Content

When Danny asks Mary what she does for a living, she snidely tells him that she's a nun.

Sexual Content

Mary takes a shower. We see her in it, though nudity is blurrily obscured by the water-coverd glass shower door. We see glimpses of her in her underwear, too.

We learn that Mary had a relationship with Tom, son of the crime syndicate leader they both work for. During a birthday party, Tom tries to renew their relationship, hugging Mary from behind and tracing his finger down the exposed portion of her chest. (She's wearing a dress that sports a cleavage-revealing neckline.) She rebuffs him and, shortly thereafter, leaves the party.

We hear rumors that one of the upper-level gangsters in Mary's underworld organization is a "perv" who, it's suspected, molested the son of the rival mob's chief.

Violent Content

The players in Proud Mary throw more bullets than New England Patriots QB Tom Brady has tossed in his entire career. His tend to be far more accurate.

Admittedly, Mary's marksmanship is impressive: She kills scads of people here, often with shots to the forehead. (We see slightly bloody wounds pock the area just above several sets of eyebrows.) Sometimes these gunshots are accompanied by small sprays of blood. Victims elsewhere are simply gunned down. Mary runs a few folks over, too.

Those shooting at Mary, meanwhile, make the average Star Wars Stormtrooper look like an Olympic marksman: Mary regularly stands straight and tall in a hail of gunfire as bullet holes pierce every bit of the wall/stairway/car seat behind her. The only feasible explanation is that Mary swallowed some incredibly powerful magnets sometime in her childhood that effectively repel gunfire.

Even so, a few bullets do find their marks. One of them pierces her midsection, and she patches herself up in her bathroom, leaving a great deal of blood in the sink. Another hits her shoulder: We know this because we see a trickle of blood from a hole in her fashionable leather jacket.

One poor Russian mobster could've used some of Mary's repellant powers. The thug is tied to a chair with a bag over his head (for some unexplained reason, because it doesn't look like anyone wants him to asphyxiate and it sure doesn't muffle his screams), while Tom stalks around him with a nail gun. Tom occasionally shoots nails into the man's feet and legs and hands. (We see some of the nails stick out from various body parts.) We later learn that Tom has been torturing the man for "two hours," and the captive has already told him "everything." Sometimes one can be too conscientious in one's work, methinks.

Danny gets punched in the face: We see some blood on his face in the aftermath. When Danny takes off his shirt in Mary's apartment, she sees that his back is covered in scratches and scabs. We hear about people being sent to the hospital with bullet wounds.

Crude or Profane Language

Two f-words, about 10 s-words. Other profanities include "b--ch," "d--n," "h---," "t-t" and "p-ss." God's name is misused at least eight times, seven of those with the word "d--n." Jesus' name is abused once. We also hear the word "douchebag."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Both rival mobs seem to be involved in the drug trade. Danny takes what appears to be a brick of cocaine or heroin to a low-level dealer: The dealer cuts the brick open to taste the merchandise. Later, Mary tells Danny that she looked in his backpack and found a couple bricks of "brown."

When Mary's shot, she drinks a great deal of Hennessey to deaden the pain. (You'd think she would've used the alcohol to sterilize the wound, but that's just me.) Gangsters toast with and quaff whiskey and vodka. Someone smokes a cigarette in the background.

Other Negative Elements

When Danny first arrives at Mary's apartment, Mary tells him that she has one rule: Not to go in her bedroom. Naturally, as soon as Mary leaves the house, Danny goes into her bedroom. He talks back to Mary, too, and repeatedly swears despite Mary's admonitions that he stop. They conjure up lies to keep Danny semi-safe, and Mary naturally doesn't tell Danny that she killed his father. We hear about a huge gambling debt that necessitated a messy hit.


Let me say this for Proud Mary: As far as R-rated movies go, I've seen worse—in terms of the level of content, at least.

This Taraji P. Henson vehicle has just enough violence and just enough language to earn its R rating. It's a long shot from being family friendly, but you hear worse language on a Netflix original and see far worse violence on The Walking Dead.

And if you were trying really, really hard to say something positive about Proud Mary, you could say that it has a nice message about adoption or foster care—undercut by the fact that Mary and Danny's informal family was only made possible by Mary killing Danny's dad and all. (As moviegoers, we're supposed to accept this odd relationship as a good thing, given that Danny didn't like his pops that much anyway.)

But this is not, frankly, a movie that I want to work too hard to praise, or to excuse. Both aesthetically and morally, this film is a minor disaster—offering just enough hints of positive movement to exasperate you all the more when it invariably turns south.

Oh, and let me say one last thing in favor of Proud Mary. Its title is delightfully, if unintentionally, ironic: If anything, this film should be ashamed of itself.

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Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

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Taraji P. Henson as Mary; Billy Brown as Tom; Jahi Di'Allo Winston as Danny; Neal McDonough as Walter; Margaret Avery as Mina; Xander Berkeley as Uncle; Rade Serbedzija as Luka; Erik LaRay Harvey as Reggie; Danny Glover as Benny


Babak Najafi ( )





Record Label



In Theaters

January 12, 2018

On Video

April 10, 2018

Year Published



Paul Asay

Content Caution