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dir Babak Najafi
scr John Stuart Newman, Christian Swegal, Steve Antin
prd Tai Duncan, Mark Anthony Little, Paul Schiff
with Taraji P Henson, Billy Brown, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Danny Glover, Neal McDonough, Margaret Avery, Xander Berkeley, Rade Serbedzija, Erik Laray Harvey, Owen Burke, Bo Cleary, James Milord
release US 12.Jan.18, UK 23.Mar.18
18/US Screen Gems 1h29
Dodging bullets: Winston and Henson
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
With a groovy '70s vibe and an engaging cast, this action thriller holds the interest even if the plot never gains a head of steam due to its empty-headed machismo. With its pointless rush to excessive violence, the only thing that makes this film worth watching is the force of nature that is Taraji P Henson.
In Boston, Mary (Henson) is a merciless assassin with an impressive collection of wigs and a hint of a conscience. A year after a disturbing job, she meets young teen Danny (Winston), who is unaware that he was orphaned by one of her hits and works as a drug-runner for vicious mobster Uncle (Berkeley). So Mary decides to teach Uncle some manners. But her actions start a tit-for-tat gang war, and for help she turns to her boss Benny (Glover) and his son Tom (Brown), her lovelorn ex. Still, things go from bad to worse.
Director Najafi keeps everything looking very stylish. But he never bothers to make anything of what could have been an involving narrative, falling back on every easy action cliche imaginable. This means that the film feels like little more than scenes of growly dialog interspersed with exaggerated gunfire, squealing tyres and wholesale mass-murder. The body count is frankly astonishing, perhaps exceeding Liam Neeson or John Wick levels.
Henson attacks the character full-pelt, making Mary a fierce, ruthless women who doesn't give in to anyone but has a soft spot for children. Her scenes with the superb Winston have a nice maternalistic slant, and she also adds texture in her scenes with Glover and Brown, bringing some spicy undercurrents to the usual back-stories. The rest of the cast do what's needed to bring their formulaic characters to life (although the fine McDonagh and Avery are shamefully wasted). And the film flags whenever Henson and Winston are off-screen.
The best part of the story is the connection between this jaded woman and this wide-eyed street kid. Both of them are hardened yet vulnerable, which makes them engaging in unexpected ways. So it's a shame that the plot is so corny, constantly threatening to twist in another annoying direction and of course drop that rather enormous other shoe. And since everyone resorts to murderous gunfire before anything else, the contrived emotional scenes feel utterly empty. No matter how well Henson and Winston sell them.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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