Halle Berry has done some incredible performances in front of the camera throughout her career and now she is about to take a seat behind it in her directorial debut Bruised. As a director, producer, and actress on this project, Berry puts out all the stops to create a story that pushes her body to her limits as a MMA fighter looking to get back into the octagon for a shot at reclaiming her glory to help those close to her. She has a variety of roles that have stood out and some that diminish her talents as an actress. As she takes on her role as a director, she proves that there are still roles out there for her to tackle.
In Bruised, Berry plays Jackie Justice, an MMA fighter whose career was cut short after leaving in the middle of a fight. It’s been four years since she’s been in an octagon and left her career behind. We find her at rock bottom, living in an apartment with her abusive manager and boyfriend Desi (Adan Canto). She relies on drugs and alcohol to numb the pain she has suffered from both Desi and her neglectful mother Angel (Adriane Lenox). She feels like she has lost her way and gets frustrated when someone recognizes her down the street.
Her life takes a dramatic turn when she gains the attention of MMA league owner Immaculate (Shamier Anderson), who sees her potential and invites her for a bout between her and champion Lady Killer (Valentina Shevchenko). He believes she can make a comeback with some help from trainer Buddhakan (Sheila Atim). To top it all off, she also gains custody of her 6-year-old son Manny (Danny Boyd Jr.) after the sudden death of his father. Much of the film focuses on Jackie attempting to restart her MMA career while also making a connection with her estranged son whom she hasn’t seen since he was born.
Much of the story in Bruised is predictable plot wise, as we’ve seen underdog or comeback stories before in the sports genre. There are some lovable moments between Jackie and Manny as they try to create a bond despite the boy unable to speak. Rather than take a traditional route in storytelling of this caliber, Berry decides to focus on an aging fighter who is given another shot at reclaiming her former glory and trying to turn her life around. It is a story worth telling on film. We also get to see a final bout in the third act between Jackie and Lady Killer, which is typical in every sports film. However, we see Jackie taking this on alone without anyone there to support her at ringside. The message that the film delivers works well towards the end. No matter the outcome, Jackie just has to prove to herself that she can tackle life on her own.
Berry’s performance is powerful in most of her scenes. We get to see her working hard to get back into fighting shape with a few training montages. Its great to see all the hard work that Berry pulls off as her character tries to overcome her fears to become the fighter she was known to be during her prime. Berry shows off her vulnerable side as well when she confronts Desi and her mother. She also shares some tender moments with her young co-star Danny, even though he doesn’t say a word on screen. Berry also has some great chemistry with Sheila, who plays her tough-as-nails trainer.
Bruised has a lot of grit to it and doesn’t rely too much on being glamorous. The story doesn’t exactly go the extra mile, but it does its job in showcasing a story about a former prized fighter who has reached her lowest point and attempts to head back to the top without relying on anyone. We as an audience get to experience her pain and misery when Jackie faces her demons. It makes an incredible journey of a fighter’s life in and out of the ring. Berry does show that Jackie can take a hit and pull herself back up when pushed into a corner.
Overall, Bruised turned out to be a solid debut for Berry as a director. The Academy Award winner manages to pull off an amazing act with good co-stars surrounding her. Even though the movie doesn’t particularly change the formula with its story, Berry can still work the camera with facial expression and a deep understanding of her role. As a director, she has a lot of ideas that work to some respect and taking inspiration from those she has worked with throughout her career. After seeing this film, it just further proves that given the right material, Berry can deliver a great performance.
Bruised is now available to stream on Netflix.
Movie Reviewed by TANTV Entertainment Journalist, Mufsin Mahbub. Follow him on Twitter @MufsinM.