Bruised Review: Heavyweight Halle

Bruised packs a punch with the performances, including a heavyweight feat by Halle Berry. The Oscar-winning star also makes an impressive directorial debut with Bruised, but the formulaic sports-drama script falls short.

When it comes to sports dramas, they can sometimes be quite predictable and, unfortunately, become cliché. Bruised tends to fall within said trope. However, watch it for the performances, especially those that feel earned and sincere between Berry’s Jackie and her on-screen son, played Danny Boyd Jr.

The film follows Jackie Justice (Berry), a once-famous mixed martial arts fighter who lost and now, four years later, works as a cleaner while living with her abusive and controlling boyfriend/manager Desi (Adan Canto). Things in her life take a new turn when Manny (Boyd Jr.), the six-year-old son she gave up, is left at her door step after witnessing his father being shot to death. This new responsibility gives her a will to get back into the ring and take up a new fight. Immaculate (Shamier Anderson) invites her to practice in his gym and introduces her to coach Buddhakan (Sheila Atim). And so begins her big fight against reigning champ Lady Killer (UFC pro Valentina Shevchenko).

The performances in Bruised pack an emotional punch. Berry disappears into the aggressive and ‘bruised’ persona. Jackie has taken a beating her whole life, and the title refers to her emotional damage stemming from her childhood. It is barely mentioned in passing when she confronts her mother and it doesn’t hit the right notes as intended. Her abusive childhood comes out of the blue, and perhaps a little more backstory would have given more weight to the film.

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The tender scenes between Berry and Boyd Jr. anchor the film. They heighten the small moments, which stand out in a movie packed with violence and aggression. The fights are well-choreographed, especially as Berry goes head-to-head with real-life UFC champ Shevchenko. There’s never a dull moment during that final fight – it is, however, hard to watch as the punches keeping rolling, sometimes quite brutally.

Boyd Jr. is remarkable as a kid who isn’t given any dialogue since Manny is unable to speak following the incident with his father. Boyd Jr. just uses his sincere expressions to convey the heartbreaking tragedy. He renders those little moments with his innocent, wide-eyed looks. Another stand-out is Atim, who supports Jackie and trains her for the fight. Atim gives a compelling and memorable turn in the quieter, more grounded moments.

Berry manages to impress on both fronts, even while making her directorial debut. If only she had a stronger script to take this into the ring and deliver a new champ.

Bruised is now streaming on Netflix.

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