A Shake Up In Action Films

January 11th, 2018A Shake Up In Action Films

The new film from Sony and Screen Gems is different from the typical action movie crowd. Proud Mary centers around Mary (Taraji P. Henson), a hit woman working for a crime family in Boston. When a job goes sideways, she meets a young boy who turns her world upside down.

Studios regularly pump out action films according to a familiar template with a square-jawed male lead and, maybe, a woman as love interest or mid-level boss enemy. Proud Mary, however, seeks to turn the genre on its ear. In preparation for the film's release, let's take a look at how Proud Mary is changing the action template and why it might be exactly what audiences have been dying to see.

Proud Mary's Casting Sets It Apart

The importance of Proud Mary being a female-led action film – the sort of project which is few and far between – cannot be overstated. Even more importantly, it’s an original action movie starring Taraji P. Henson. Sure, she’s a pretty big star, but how often does a 47-year-old woman of color get a lead role in an action film? The answer to that question is, sadly, not very often. Virtually never, in fact.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Taraji P. Henson was emphatic about an industry imbalance, which is redressed in small part by her role in Proud Mary:

When women get older in this business, they tend to send us out to pastures; meanwhile, you have Liam Neeson, however old he is, still kicking ass in Taken and Denzel Washington, who, at any given drop of a dime, will do an action film. F*** that. If men can do it, why can't we? I feel like women get better as we age. Give us the same chances as you give men.

Henson’s comments are 100% accurate, and speak to the overall gender bias in Hollywood. There has been a resurgence of older action stars, but outside a few examples such as Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde, it’s still a male dominated genre. Proud Mary is a step in the right direction, and given the climate regarding gender equality in Hollywood, it has come at the perfect time.

Proud Mary Will Not Only Be Action-Packed, But Also An Emotional Film

[Credit: Screen Gems/Sony]
[Credit: Screen Gems/Sony]

Not only does the film shrug off typical Hollywood gender and race conventions, the story also deviates from the usual action film. In an interview with CinemaBlend, Proud Mary's director, Paul Schiff, commented on how the film will be different from others in the genre:

The story of her sort of finding her purpose and her heart again through this relationship with this kid, it just was really compelling. Over the course of the development of the screenplay, we probed more carefully and more deeply into the relationship of Danny and Mary, and really kind of committed to that as the emotional core of the movie. So that it's not only a thriller with action, and an exciting ride, but that there's also a genuine, real human relationship and real emotional experience at the core of the story. Folks who are interested in the action will certainly get what they want, but they'll get a lot more than they expected because there will be a very moving and emotional experience at the core.

Schiff’s comments sound similar to ones made by directors like James Gunn and Patty Jenkins, who both helped bring heart into the superhero genre. The general theory is, If the story is emotionally compelling and engaging, the rest falls into place. Audiences have seen people shooting and fighting before, but it’s the connection they have to the character that makes it compelling.

From everything said by Henson and Schiff, it seems that Proud Mary is premiering at the perfect time. If the film is received well, it could be yet another message that audiences want to see something different. The trailer for the film looks amazing, and if Proud Mary delivers on an emotional level, it could be the movie audiences have been craving.

Proud Mary when it hits theaters on January 12, 2018.

(Sources: The Hollywood Reporter; CinemaBlend)