Directed by: Halle Berry
Premise: A mixed martial arts fighter (Halle Berry) takes custody of her estranged son and accepts an opportunity to get her MMA career back on track.
What Works: The best sports films are about more than athletics. The sporting event is a vehicle to act out other issues and that principle is applied effectively in Bruised. This is the story of a woman who is lost. Jackie, played by Halle Berry, was a high-profile UFC fighter but after a disastrous match she lost her confidence and has drifted into poverty along with her deadbeat boyfriend (Adan Canto). When Jackie is reunited with her abandoned son she faces a choice and rebuilds her life. The athletic and domestic storylines come together effectively; the training and the fighting are a metaphor of the way Jackie must combat her demons and doubts. Berry is quite good in the lead role. When a glamorous Hollywood actress plays poor or trashy characters it can come across false but Berry’s performance feels authentic. The story gets into Jackie’s psyche and background and Berry’s performance makes the character vulnerable. She is well paired with Danny Boyd Jr. who plays her son. The boy has gone mute but Boyd conveys a lot through his gaze and posture. Also impressive are Adriane Lenox as Jackie’s mother and Sheila Atim as her trainer. Both women come across harsh at first but gradually reveal more to their personalities. In addition to its domestic and interpersonal stories, Bruised is a boxing movie and the filmmakers understand their genre. It delivers what viewers want from that kind of film and the climactic fight is exceptionally well choreographed.
What Doesn’t: Bruised does the boxing formula well but there is a lot in it that is familiar from other pugilist movies like Rocky and Southpaw. Perhaps in an effort to spice up the formula, the relationship between Jackie and her trainer takes an unexpected and unbelievable turn. As an athlete and a trainer, it’s necessary for them to keep up certain boundaries so that the trainer can maintain a position of authority. Closing that distance has ethical implications that the film doesn’t deal with but as far as the storytelling is concerned this twist ought to complicate the trainer-trainee relationship. The filmmakers seem to realize this and try to undo that storytelling choice only to do an about-face in the ending that jerks around the characters and the audience.
DVD extras: Available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: Bruised is a well-made boxing drama and an impressive directorial debut from Halle Berry. The film offers the athletic thrills viewers look for in a boxing movie but it’s also an effective family drama.
Episode: #882 (December 12, 2021)