Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Proud Mary, or: They See Me Rollin' on a River

There’s an odd comfort in a mob war movie. Possibly because they’re all taking similar cues from The Godfather or dispensing a brutal but simple version of street justice. However, at the moment, I think the main comfort is seeing a danger that’s easily dealt with and dispensed…which is decidedly not true for the global pandemic and health emergency we’re currently facing. Plus Taraji P. Henson kicking ass is never a bad idea…right?

The Film:

Proud Mary

The Premise:

A hit woman for the mob runs into complications after taking out a target whose young son is in the next room.

The Ramble:

The titular Mary is an assassin for the mob in Boston, with an aim that is precise and unwavering. After many years of efficiently killing for her father figure, Benny, Mary is disturbed one evening when she kills a man whose young son is playing video games in the next room. Wracked with guilt, Mary keeps tabs on the boy, Danny.

An African-American woman sits at a desk, stirring a cup of tea she is holding.

The next year doesn’t go particularly well for Danny. With both parents out of the picture, Danny becomes an errand boy for Uncle, a member of another Boston crime family. Though transporting significant amounts of drugs and cash back and forth, Danny sleeps rough on park benches and is in constant danger from the mob and others lurking in the sketchier parts of town.

A woman wearing a leather jacket walks next to a preteen boy wearing a hoodie as they walk through a park, the cityscape of Boston behind them.

Because Mary has been looking out for Danny, she helps him when he eventually passes out in an alley after receiving a nasty head wound. Suspicious when he wakes up in a stranger’s apartment, Danny is keen to take his backpack and leave. However, Mary first decides to pay Uncle a visit to remind him of his manners. Predictably, things go horribly wrong, and Mary knocks off several members of the rival gang.

Should anyone discover Mary is responsible for the killings, it will spell trouble for both her and her adopted family. To cover her tracks, Mary immediately starts casting doubt around fellow mob member Walter, who has beef with the other family. The only problem is her ex (and Benny’s son) isn’t buying this, but Mary manages to get the ok to take out Walter.

An older African-American man sits in an office chair, wearing a suit. He looks serious and has worry lines across his forehead.

Meanwhile, an attack on Benny and his crew reveals the rival gang’s commitment to escalate the mob war regardless of what happens to Walter. Tom also finds out that Danny is living with Mary and becomes suspicious of this entire arrangement. At Benny’s insistence, Mary and Danny attend a birthday party for his wife. Because her character is written as an idiot, Mary reveals to Benny that she plans to get out of the mob, despite his status as her boss/father figure. Extremely bad idea.

I’m not sure how much more detail I can go into without my eyes rolling into the back of my head. Suffice it to say, things escalate further. The rival mob is a problem, Benny is a problem, and Mary’s assassination of Danny’s father is a problem.

Also an issue? How disappointingly bad this film is.

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Oh my god, every single character in this film is insufferably stupid. Considering two of them are played by Taraji P. Fucking Henson and Danny Glover, this is unforgivable.

This film is almost immediately bad, as things are set up in a way that makes it difficult to care about any of the characters. First, it’s difficult to understand why Mary feels so much guilt about this particular murder of Danny’s father. Surely she’s killed other men in their 30s before, and statistically at least some of them had children? It’s also an odd choice for Mary to intervene only after Danny has experience a head trauma; his life in the entire year leading up to this wasn’t exactly a cake walk. Throughout the film, it seems like Mary has a special connection to Danny, i.e. is secretly his mother(?!?!?!), but this is never a revelation that happens. There needs to be some reason Mary feels connected to Danny–but there never really is, so their relationship, which should be the driving force here, falls miserably flat.

The relationships between the other characters are also incredibly underdeveloped. One: since Benny has been like a father to Mary, you’d think these two characters would know each other better. However, they don’t seem to know each other at all, and have to seriously spell out their exact thoughts and feelings to each other in awfully written dialogue. The same is true for Mary’s relationship with Tom, which used to be romantic, yet now she describes as brotherly? Gross gross gross.

The motivations are also super stupid for all of the characters, and Mary’s eagerness to leave the mob life behind seems to come out of nowhere. We’re given no sense of what’s going on in her brain throughout the film, so her decisions almost never make sense.

On the bright side, we do get a rather nice ass-kicking scene set to Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” But it takes us a really long time to get there, and it ends up being too little too late.

Would my blog wife spare this film or unhesitatingly pull the trigger? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Coffy, or: Cream & Sugar

I can’t believe this free blogging month is nearly over–though, of course, October is truly the most wonderful time of the year on the Blog Collab. The challenge this year will be out-doing a film featuring Pam Grier with a shotgun; honestly, should we just call it a day and try again in 2020?

The Film:


The Premise:

A woman seeks revenge against the drug ring responsible for her sister’s heroin addiction.

The Ramble:

If you can’t handle a ‘70s vibe, get out of this kitchen, as this is possibly the most ’70s film you will watch.

Outside of an extremely retro nightclub, a junkie waits for the big time drug dealer inside.  She will do anything to get a hit—a rather more appealing prospect to the dealer when it turns out the junkie is Coffy, played by Pam Grier.

Upon retiring to a private apartment, Coffy reveals she’s had an ulterior motive all along:  rather than a junkie, she is a woman seeking vengeance against those she holds responsible for her sister’s addiction to heroin.  Both the dealer and his driver fail to live past this night.

A nurse by day, Coffy visits her sister in rehab every week–not the typical stone-hearted killer. Though in a relationship with Howard, a hopeful for an upcoming congressional race, her boyfriend is keen to keep their relationship out of the public eye. Perhaps his reasons for the secrecy move beyond commitment issues? (Hint: they totally do.)

After her ex-boyfriend cop, Carter, is put in a coma, Coffy has added incentive to take down the drug dealers, police officers, and political insiders victimizing the black community. When she confronts a sex worker, Coffy gains intel about the local drug ring and the role of dealer and pimp King George–aka the most stereotypically ’70s pimp to ever grace the silver screen.

Posing as a sex worker, Coffy uses her connection with King George to root out the creeps at the top of the pyramid. Though she has things all sorted out to take care of dealer Vitroni (including gun smuggled in a child’s stuffed lion), Coffy’s plan is foiled when Carter’s partner, a corrupt cop, recognizes her and tips off his boss.

Out of her depth and with no friends to be found, how will Coffy manage to save the day and take down a massive drug ring all by herself?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’ll start with the jarring elements of the film: there is a LOT of nudity here that feels EXTREMELY male gaze-y. The standouts here are the cringey cat fight between Coffy and one of the sex workers, as well as the gross scene after Carter is beaten where one of the assailants rather casually attempts to rape Coffy.

As a blaxploitation film, there are some ways in which race is addressed well…and others that feel incredibly problematic. A leading contributor to this is the weirdness of a mostly black cast in a film written and directed by a white man. The way King George meets his end, being dragged behind a car with a noose, is the absolute worst. And while the film’s message isn’t to endorse racism, it does have a voyeuristic feel that makes me wonder if there are people today who genuinely enjoy this scene.

However, the film is very much ahead of its time in its anti-drug themes, and the way it connects these to structural racism in politics and law enforcement. It’s truly tragic the way these ideas will be completely ignored during and in the aftermath of the war on drugs.

The real highlight is, of course, Pam Grier. She succeeds in being a tough but tender lead who is as comfortable wielding a shotgun as caring for her sister. Additionally, she’s a genius at hiding sharp objects in her ‘fro.

I give maximum points for this film’s tagline:   “They call her Coffy, and she’ll cream you.”

Would my tough as nails blog wife give this one a cuddle or bring on the shotgun? Read her review here to find out!