In Halle Berry’s directorial debut, Bruised, the first scene opens with a POV of Jackie Justice taking the beating of her life for a couple of minutes. Not able to take the beating any longer, she skips the octagon – the fighting ring. In this project that ought to have been directed by Nick Cassavetes, Halle Berry is Jackie Justice. It is the story of a disgraced MMA fighter.
It has been four years since Jackie Justice forfeited a major fight, now she lives with her manager-boyfriend, Desi (Adan Canto), who is constantly asking her to get back into fighting. During one of his attempts to get her back into fighting, she is provoked into fighting with Werewolf (a 7-feet tall underground fighter), whom she headbutts into unconsciousness. While displaying her grittiness against Werewolf, she catches the eyes of Immaculate (Shamier Anderson), a local promoter of an all-female MMA league, who convinces her to join him. As though she does not have enough on her plate, JJ is shocked when her son, Manny (Danny Boyd Jr.), whom she abandoned with his father, walks back into her life mute and traumatized after his father died in a shootout.
With no idea of how to raise her son, struggling with her training at Invicta FC under Buddhakhan (Sheila Atim), being poor, living with an abusive boyfriend, staying close to her dismissive mother, dealing with C-PTSD from multiple rape, and battling homelessness, Jackie Justice is nothing but stressed, but so are the audience. Too many things seem to be going on with this one character. The story picks up after a fight is set between Jackie “Pretty Bull” Justice and Lucia “Lady Killer” Chavez (Valentina Shevchenko), the same person that scarred her from the ring four years ago, both set for an Atlantic city title bout.
Let us admit it, Bruised looks like Rocky, its sequels, the sports movie with Jai Michael and many other sports movies we have seen. The underdog is back to defend their honor, or get their revenge against an old rival. Bruised is packed with the usual sports/fight drama tropes of reluctance to face the old foe, intense and long gym training, turning pro after training a while at the gym etc. However, Bruised tries so hard to be distinct from the rest by looking at the life of a woman drowning in her problems and demons, which Berry almost messes up with her overly complex character, but is saved by the extended time in the movie with which she meticulously unpacks all these things going on in the character’s life including her relationship with someone from work. Sports movies should consider unconventional sports movies such as King Richard (2021), there is a nugget of wisdom to be learnt, that going against the flow sometimes pays.
How does a former UFC fighter end up as nanny? Or even harassed by a minor with his phone? She really fell from the sky. Asides from the plot and story Bruised shares with many other sports films, there is also the characteristic dull orange colour that wants to test the patience of viewers. The camera work’s creativity with capturing the fight scenes is exceptional, handled by Frank G. DeMarco (Five Feet Apart) and Joshua Reis (The Infiltrator).
There is something about wanting a character who is used to literally and figuratively running from their problems, something about wanting them to get their shit together and maybe even win for once or get better at something. And that is what keeps the audience going while watching Jackie twirl in the midst of her problems. Yes, Bruised is a movie we have seen in many other movies, also it is a complex story and that’s probably what it will be remembered for.
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- The whole Rocky franchise was overstretched, making the first movies in the franchise lose their savor. I hope there are no more sequels.
- Halle Berry, I hope you do not have any sequels planned.
- King Richard as a study case for sports movies.
- Danny Boyd gave an impressive performance of a boy battling with the trauma of his father’s death. This is probably his third appearance on Netflix after appearing in Stranger Things. He is also a very good-looking young boy.
- Why did they have to add the whole fiasco with Buddakhan? It was so forced. However, Sheila Atim still gives an endearing performance.
Bruised is streaming on Netflix.