Taraji P. Henson spent six weeks in Lowell last spring filming “Proud Mary” — but she wasn’t just making a movie. “Proud Mary,” the Oscar-nominated Henson said, is appealing in its dramatic story of a Boston hitwoman’s life being changed when she protects an orphan.
“That is the obvious thing for the audience, but, more importantly, you have not seen an African-American woman named above the title in an action movie since the ’70s.”That was the Blaxploitation era, with action movies led by Pam “Foxy Brown” Grier and Tamara “Cleopatra Jones” Dobson. Is “Proud Mary” a return to blaxploitation?
“Nothing to exploit here. But it’s definitely a reminder that women can do these roles at any age, just like men.”Mary is one cool killer and the 47-year-old actress didn’t need any arms training to step into her homicidal heels.
“There were two guns that she used. I’m very good with a Glock. Every cop I’ve played used a Glock. The big gun was the M5 and once you get the mechanisms of aim, shoot — I knew how to work it.“What was daunting,” she said, “was the hand-to-hand combat. I’d never done that before and I had to think about it as a dance routine. It’s choreographed, so the stunt coordinator was blown away by how fast I picked it up.
“The first stunt was where I throw the guy through the glass — that’s in the trailer. He taught me that in 20 minutes.“The dangerous stunts, like jumping out of a moving car, they had the stunt double. For the most part, all the fighting hand-to-hand is me.”
Henson scored with “Hidden Figures,” her 2016 sleeper hit that was Oscar-nominated for best picture, and with Cookie Lyon on TV’s “Empire,” but she’s not about to rest.“Obviously I feel I have a lot of stuff to prove and I’m not going to stop until people get it. I’m not going to stop! Stop telling me my movies won’t sell overseas! Take me overseas and prove me wrong.”She laughed, saying, “That’s the only way you’re going to shut me up.”Her two other films this year include Tyler Perry’s “Acrimony” in March, followed by “The Best of Enemies,” the true story of a black woman who stood up to North Carolina’s Ku Klux Klan in 1971.
“The Commuter”: If you’re stoked about seeing Liam Neeson in action movies directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, you’ll be happy to know that “The Commuter” is their fourth time working together in the past seven years. Unrelated to any of their previous films, this one finds Neeson aboard a passenger train with Vera Farmiga (“Bates Motel”) as they race against time to solve a deadly conspiracy. 1 hr. 45; PG-13.
“Paddington 2”: With its careful balance of rude humor and well-paced adventure, 2014’s “Paddington” preserved the dignity of Michael Bond’s beloved character (voiced by Ben Whishaw) while updating it for modern audiences. With most of the main cast returning, the new films sends the CGI animated bear off to prison after a case of mistaken identity involving a stolen book. 1 hr. 43; PG.
“I, Tonya”: Equal parts “Boogie Nights” and “Best In Show,” this darkly comedic mockumentary dramatizes the life of U.S. figure skating champion Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie, “Suicide Squad”), who was implicated in a 1994 scandal involving a physical assault on her Olympic teammate Nancy Kerrigan (Cailin Carver, “Paper Towns”). Allison Janney and Sebastian Stan co-star. 2 hr.; R.
“The Post”: Director Steven Spielberg rides the coattails of the 2015 Oscar-winning newspaper drama “Spotlight” with this political thriller detailing the 1971 publication of the Pentagon Papers by the Washington Post, and the ensuing government opposition. Meryl Streep stars as publisher Katharine Graham opposite Tom Hanks as executive editor Ben Bradlee. 1 hr. 55; PG-13.“Proud Mary”: The ad campaign for this action thriller from “London Has Fallen” director Babak Najafi pushes “Hidden Figures” star Taraji P. Henson as the heir to the throne of Pam Grier by using the same typeface as the classic “Foxy Brown” posters and showing off Henson looking cool with a variety of firearms as the title character, a professional hitwoman with a tragic past. 1 hr. 28; R.