Director: Halle Berry
Writer: Michelle Rosenfarb
Starring: Halle Berry, Danny Boyd Jr., Shamier Anderson, Adan Canto, Sheila Atim, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Valentina Shevchenko
After premiering over a year ago at Toronto International Film Festival, Bruised, has finally found a wide release on Netflix. Halle Berry’s directs and stars in the sports drama about a former UFC fighter, that feels very similar to Rocky.
Jackie Justice (Halle Berry) has been living with her manager/boyfriend since forfeiting a major fight. Her once promising career has been left by the wayside as she struggles through demeaning jobs to make ends meet. After Jackie’s mother appears one night with Jackie’s son, Manny (Danny Boyd Jr.), she makes the decision to restart her fighting career and get her life back on track.
The parallels between Bruised and the original Rocky film scream out throughout the story. The lead characters are both struggling with money, leading horrible lives. They’re both given an opportunity for a title fight and take it despite their trainers initially thinking they’re too old to do it. Both films have the same structure, both have training montages, and both end in a match where it doesn’t really matter if the lead character wins or not, because they’ve proved to themselves and everyone else that they’re capable. It’s a very safe story structure and there isn’t much new added here.
At first, this doesn’t feel like a Rocky clone. The lead up to the first fight, in an underground club that Jackie’s manager takes her to, is brutal and violent. It ends with Jackie headbutting her opponent over and over with a bloody result. There’s a lot of anger under her surface and it looks like this is going to be a lot grittier and more brutal, but then the training starts, and it feels like it’s in a very safe zone plot-wise. It doesn’t take long for Jackie to have her chance at a title fight against Lady Killer (Valentina Shevchenko) and once that’s announced it’s what everything is leading towards.
The film isn’t just about fighting in the ring, it’s also about the struggles outside of it. Jackie’s been stuck in an abusive relationship with her manager, that always feels like it’s on the verge of turning violent. Her mother isn’t much better, an addict who didn’t protect her daughter when she was younger. Manny witnessed his dad die and hasn’t spoken a word since. There’s a lot going on in Jackie’s life, and while the first half of the film does make it a focal point, it does get left behind as the fight gets near.
Jackie leaves her abusive partner, with no real issue or resistance from him and then he doesn’t reappear again throughout the story. She gets her moment to stand up to her mother, but there’s no real resolution there. She gets to know her son and they bond nicely, but becoming a new parent doesn’t really stop her training. Thankfully her trainer, Bobbi (Sheila Atim) is very understanding and apart from one moment where Jackie misses a training session, there’s not much struggle there either. It all feels like padding to get to the main fight at the end.
Halle Berry is phenomenal in this film. She’s gives it her all both behind and in front of the camera. Her performance is incredibly strong both with the emotional story and the fighting. At times it does have hard hitting moments and really works. Jackie’s relationship with Manny is the heart of the film and without that it would all fall apart. Even with its flaws, the film remains entertaining and never feels boring or too long. It flows nicely and ramps up to the final fight, even if it does drop the side-plots along the way.
Bruised is a decent film. It uses a tried and tested formula that still works. The characters are great, and Berry’s performance is phenomenal. It’s not as brutal or as daring as the first fight would suggest and by the end, you’re just stuck with that feeling that this has all been done before. It’s still a good film, but it’s not going to last in the same way that Rocky has.
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