SYNOPSIS: Jackie Justice (Halle Berry) is a mixed martial arts fighter who leaves the sport in disgrace. Down on her luck and simmering with rage and regret years after her last fight, she’s coaxed into a brutal underground fight by her manager and boyfriend Desi (Adan Canto) and grabs the attention of a fight league promoter (Shamier Anderson) who promises Jackie a life back in the octagon. But the road to redemption becomes unexpectedly personal when Manny (Danny Boyd, Jr.) — the son she gave up as an infant — shows up at her doorstep.
Halle Berry’s character might looked horribly bruised onscreen but the 56 year old Oscar winning actress is definitely commendable behind the camera in her directorial debut.
In Bruised, Jackie Justice (Berry) is a has-been UFC fighter after losing a match years ago. Now she is an alcoholic living with her abusive boyfriend/manager, Desi (Adan Canto) and earning a minimum wage as a cleaner. Just when her life can’t get any worse, a son named Manny (Danny Boyd Jr) whom she abandoned years ago has returned. When a promoter of an all-female MMA league sees the potential in her and plans to introduce her to a trainer, Buddhakan (Shelia Atim), Jackie decides to pick up her life again. It’s a case of now or never for Jackie Justice.
Sports movies are generally formulaic. If you watched one, you probably know how the rest of the movies flow. Writer Michelle Rosenfarb’s first credited full-length screenplay unfortunately is predictable and throws in more ingredients than it ought to be resulting in a pretty bloated runtime in the end. Besides searching for redemption, Jackie is also struggling with a haunted past that involved her estranged mom, Angel (Adriane Lenox), her reconnection with her long-lost son who refuses to talk after witnessing the death of his father and given her age, the burden of getting back in shape for the ring.
Right down to the closing scene, there isn’t much surprises in store. However if you put all those movie clichés aside, there’s never a moment on screen where Halle Berry the actress doesn’t catch your attention. Berry’s strong performance as a broken woman will leave you speechless. There’s not a single hint of Berry the actress, what we sees is a down-and-out ex-fighter with a bleak future ahead of her. Most of the time, she is bloody and hurt so badly that you can’t even recognize her face. Even her body and figure is in such bad shape. Beside physical transformation, Berry proves her award-winning performance in Monster’s Ball wasn’t a mere coincidence.
Bruised is very much a sports drama that gets the job done because Berry brings a lot of soul and effort in her storytelling and portrayal of Jackie Justice. There’s even a LGBT representation in the already crowded drama where Shelia Atim is excellent as Jackie’s zen-practicing trainer but clumsy as the movie’s unnecessary, distracting love interest. Again, there’s a lot to take in as mentioned earlier. Still, Berry delivers a gripping, knockout match opposite a top Argentinian opponent played by real-life UFC Ukranian fighter Valentina Shevchenko in the final act. Frankly, it’s more about the journey and process for a drama liked Bruised. It’s not going to win a lot of fans or garnered any awards but it’s sufficient enough to pack quite a punch of its own.
Review by Linus Tee