Halle Berry is one of the most prolific actresses of a generation. As the first, and so far only, Black woman to win the Best Actress Oscar, Berry is synonymous with success in the movie business. Now, with Netflix’s Bruised, the actress hopes to prove her medal behind the camera as well and expand upon her already legendary career.
In addition to directing, Berry also stars in the feature as former UFC fighter Jackie “Pretty Bull” Justice. Four years after forfeiting the biggest fight of her career, Jackie finds herself working as a housecleaner. During this time, she begins to rely on alcohol as a coping mechanism. Upon the constant pushing of her boyfriend and manager Desi (Adan Canto), she gets the urge to return to the MMA arena. However, her return to fighting is quickly shaken up when her son – who she has not seen since he was an infant – returns to her life.
Bruised serves as a solid allegory for facing one’s fears. In the case of Jackie Justice, fear of failure causes an overwhelming urge to run and hide. At the height of her career, Jackie was on top of the sports world. But in real life, the glitz and glamour are marred with bad decisions and a lack of external support.
Halle Berry’s first time in the director’s chair sees positive results. The story of female empowerment comes to the forefront as Jackie has to decide what’s important in her life. Additionally, a notable score from Terence Blanchard assists in building tension in key moments throughout the feature. When the film takes the action to the ring, it’s clear that Berry becomes a badass with nothing to lose.
What makes a good sports drama? Over the years, films like Ali and The Way Back have highlighted that, sometimes, the figures standing under the bright lights are just as flawed as the ones sitting in the stands. As an inspirational sports drama, Bruised works and serves the genre well. However, the film is not afraid to land a few gut punches. With relatable, personal details unfolding in the life of Jackie Justice. Mixing the story of a good comeback with the complexities of mother-son bonding works well and never feels forced.
However, at times the film’s narrative relies too heavily on the clichés. Between Jackie’s mother’s seemingly unwarranted disappointment in her daughter to Jackie’s son refusing to talk to his mother, the sought-after inspiration feels bogged down by the film’s attempt to pile on the negativity in Jackie’s life. Additionally, some elements are a little too on the nose. The biggest example of this is when Jackie embraces her son… while “Just the Two of Us” plays on the radio.
In the end, Jackie’s journey towards happiness never feels easy. The earned success at the end of the feature feels genuine. Berry’s classic brand of authenticity allows the combination of a heartfelt redemption and the brutality of the cutthroat world of MMA to create an emotionally-charged package. – Christian Hubbard
Bruised is streaming now on Netflix!
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