Halle Berry’s directorial debut isn’t exactly a knockout, but it’s far from a loser.
“Bruised” is a drama about a mixed-martial-arts fighter who seems to have everything going against her. It’s a great showcase for her talent behind and in front of the camera, where she delivers a powerful performance that reminds us, once again, of why she earned an Oscar for her character in “Monster’s Ball.”
Berry is Jackie Justice, a disgraced fighter who drinks her way through her life after her fall from grace. She lives in Newark with her manager boyfriend Desi (Adan Canto, “Second Chance.”)
Desi has a bad temper. Jackie has to be careful not to set him off. He’s heavy-fisted one minute and bringing her flowers the next.
He brings Jackie to a fight where she wins, and another manager tells her he can get her back into the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Then Jackie’s mother shows up with Jackie’s son Manny (Danny Boyd Jr.) The boy’s father has been killed. Now, Jackie’s mother tells her it’s time for her to take responsibility for the boy.
Desi is enraged. He doesn’t want the boy, who refuses to speak, and takes it out on both Jackie and the boy himself.
Jackie faces the possibility of violence everywhere. It’s clear she doesn’t want her son to grow up in this environment, so she does the best she can to ensure she can provide a stable life for him at some point.
There are a couple of familiar tropes here, but there are a couple of surprises, too, in this solid drama. I loved the look of the gym, of Jackie’s apartment, of the streets, and the way Jackie fights both literally and figuratively for everything good that comes her way. Director Berry gives her character’s surroundings a dark, gritty look that enhances the grimness of her situation.
You’ll cheer her on all the way through.
Running time: 129 minutes.
Rated: R for foul language, violence and drinking.
Streaming on Netflix.
Watch the trailer here.