Halle Berry makes her directorial debut with Bruised, a movie that’s half comeback sports drama, half family drama, and quite a cliché. Berry also stars Bruised, as the disgraced MMA fighter Jackie Justice, whose career ends after she exits the octagonal cage during a fight she is losing. The opening of the film shows this event in a hazy semi-blackness set in Jackie’s gasping for breath, and it is easily one of the most interesting and witty sequences in the film. As a director, Berry does well, displaying a particular talent for capturing action and more of a knack for capturing the performance than getting it from her actors. Most of the performances in Bruised They’re unremarkable, and Berry herself borders on the histrionic, but Stephen McKinley Henderson is dependable as ever as a coach, and Sheila Atim is just as invigorating here as in The underground railway. Young actor Danny Boyd, Jr. also credibly does so as Jackie’s almost mute estranged son.
Years after her UFC career ended, Jackie is cleaning houses and living with Desi (Adan Canto), her boyfriend and manager. Their relationship is not a good one, and one might think that Jackie is punishing herself for some yet undisclosed misdeed, but Bruised, written by Michelle Rosenfarb, never explores why Jackie stepped out of the ring in the opening scene, nor does she seem particularly burdened by her past decision to give up her son and let his father raise him. For a film that lasts more than two hours, Jackie remains an opaque character, following the movements dictated by genre conventions. Return to the ring (octagon, whatever)? Yes! Do you bond with your child? Of course!
Their comeback fight, in fact, dominates the third act. It’s quite an engaging piece of action, though Berry succumbs to the current trend of muddy, brownish-gray cinematography (with lenses from Frank G. DeMarco and Joshua Reis), but he achieves the right angles in a way that makes the fight. herself she looks brutal and athletic, with a focus on the power and grace of some of the moves. Still, there are a lot of bone-breaking punches and kicks, and if MMA isn’t your thing, Bruised it can be a bit difficult to see. Also affecting that final fight is the fact that Jackie’s opponent Lady Killer (professional MMA fighter Valentina Shevchenko) doesn’t show up until late, undermining some of their reunion drama. Despite the catchy name, Lady Killer is not Apollo Creed.
As for the family drama side, Bruised it’s just as cliché, and also a bit hard to watch (child abuse content warning). Bruised it doesn’t offer anything new or even interesting like a sports or family drama. Berry is dedicated in her performance, especially with the fight scenes, but this is not her best performance. I suppose MMA fans might like it, but it’s only half a movie about a returning MMA fighter, you’ll also have to sit back and listen to the sad but hackneyed family episodes. And if you want the family drama parts, you still have to deal with the brutal fight scenes. And even if you want to watch either, there are better movies that press the same buttons (the Creed movies, for example). For fans of Halle Berry, Bruised it’s a technically impressive start to her directing career, aside from the muddy look, but she can’t get past the script’s weaknesses. I don’t know who this movie is for.
Bruised airs on Netflix since November 24.
Deputy – Halle doing promo rounds in New York earlier this week.