'Bruised' Review: Halle Berry throws hard punches, but fails to make an impact
The Oscar-winner delivers as an actor in 'Bruised', but the helming of films might need some work
Spoilers for 'Bruised'
Halle Berry's directorial debut impresses only in patches. She lands those punches, but they fail to make an impact. She's the once has-been, was promising and potential-filled MMA brawler, Jackie Justice. And from the start of the film, she's just trying to survive, rather than be the famed fighter. After losing a fight right at the start of the film that sees her gripped with panic and fear, she's out of that octagon cage and leading an obscure life.
She's living with a loser of a boyfriend, Desi (Adan Canto). She's an alcoholic with some booze put in a spritz bottle for those regular sprays. And just when the jeering and the sad life couldn't get any worse, her six-year-old son, Manny (Danny Boyd Jr.) who she had earlier given up for adoption returns after his father's demise. And with a mute (not really) kid in tow, Jackie begins her journey towards recapturing and rebuilding that lost respect and relationships. 'Bruised' sadly doesn't offer any novelty although it does serve oodles of melodrama.
Jackie's character is fleshed out to the best it can be. She's spunky but only shows it when provoked. It's distinctly established when Desi takes to her an unsanctioned underground fight to find her an opponent, only to see Jackie being goaded by an opponent whose gender confuses her. The fight ends with her beating the other to a pulp. This grabs the attention of Immaculate (Shamier Anderson), a promoter who just wants to use her as a way of getting a ticket with the UFC.
There are too many plot points that make 'Bruised' a rather slow affair. Berry's washed-up image sheds way too much light on her past rather than focus on what she intends to do about it in the present. Manny's trauma means he's gone deathly mute and her relationship with Desi, bordering between abusive and physical gets further in dire straits by the frame. The only solace comes when she's training under the renowned instructor Buddhakan (Sheila Atim), who gets pulled into a bit of queer-baiting with Jackie that flames out in double-quick time.
Then there's that strained relationship with her perpetually drunk and pill-popping mother (Adriane Lenox) just to add to the misery and makes the plot a lot more convoluted. The multiple layers just hide the actual focus of the film and that serves as the major problem in Berry's first outing behind the lens. The script just packs way too much making it a 70% drama and 30% action. The Academy Award winner is just in her element as Jackie with Sheila playing the perfect support cast. Canto, Lenox, and Anderson play their parts, but the movie fails to make a dent.
The film’s cinematography by Frank G. DeMarco and Joshua Reis does enough to make the setting as realistic as possible, but perhaps, Berry could have picked something else she's passionate about. She delivers as an actor in 'Bruised', but the helming of films might need some work. Safe to say this won't be her last project, but hopefully, the upcoming ones fare a lot better.
'Bruised' will stream on Netflix on November 24.