Bruised but not broken, Halle Berry’s directorial debut falls to the mat early and often at the hands of a clichéd and surface level screenplay. Thankfully, it’s her leading role that allows her to beat the count. Elevated by the Oscar Winner’s star power and deeply emotional heart wrenching performance, Halle’s Career behind the camera lives to fight on.
Jackie Justice was at the top of the UFC ranks until her biggest fight to date alongside a life altering decision induced a crippling panic attack that led her to leave the sport behind entirely. Depression, Alcoholism, and the daily struggle of living with her abusive boyfriend/manager who selfishly nudges her back into the ring almost takes her out. However, the return of her young abandoned son snaps Jackie out of her malaise and back into the octagon with renewed vigor and looks to give him a better life than she had growing up.
It’s a simple story we’ve seen hundreds of times. The star rises, the star falls, the star looks to shine bright again. So what about this new Netflix Sports Drama makes it stand out?
Halle “Freakin” Berry! Without her this would be a forgettable addiction story that makes the battle to fight alcohol abuse seem like a piece of cake. Without her this would be a frustrating domestic abuse tale that forgets to give closure to the relationship that held her back for years.
Without her this would be a flawed character piece that throws everything but the kitchen sink at our protagonist, biting off more than it could narratively chew.
Unfortunately, the bar’s been set with these types of dramas. Whether it be Gavin O’Connor’s The Way Back or his more aptly compared Fighter Drama Warrior, both of which depict tortured protagonists battling themselves and outside forces to climb back to prominence. While Bruised does really well depicting the gripping reality a mother faces when staring at the son she essentially gave up at birth, everything else around it struggles to keep you engaged.
Performances by the ensemble are hit or miss. Sheila Atim’s “Buddahkan” is among the highlights as she delivers a big left hook. I believed her as a healing mentor whose infatuation with Jackie’s bounce back leads to attraction. However, the care in which this film handled Jackie’s struggle with her identity seemed to be more focused on crafting a tender sex scene than the relational a reconciliation between them. Danny Boyd Jr. who plays “Manny”, Jackie’s son, is fantastic while having almost no dialogue. He conveys a measured sorrow and joy when needed all through his eyes and body.
Visually, the film leaves much to be desired. The film could have landed a more convincing punch cinematically with a more seasoned eye behind the camera to capture the visceral nature of the sport. Imagine the detail and composition with the mastery shot and stunt choreography of Ryan Coogler’s Creed, for example. A lot of the fighting was overly telegraphed and hard to believe, coming across as more of a made for TV movie than Netflix film, even though that line gets blurred more and more each day.
Like the film’s title, “Bruised” takes its lumps. Thankfully, Halle Berry’s Movie Stardom, plus her acting, a familiar story, and good music equals a FINE NETFLIX FILM debut that at least makes it all 5 rounds.