Actress Halle Berry makes her directorial debut in Bruised, which uses the predictable rhythms of a fighter’s return to showcase flamboyant performances.
Berry stars in the film as Jackie Justice, a former MMA star who has been beaten up by alcoholism and abusive relationships with her longtime manager Desi (Adan Kanto). When Jackie is recruited into a new war league, she too is defeated. But her worldview changes when her little son Manny (Danny Boyd Jr.), whom she once abandoned, finds herself on the doorstep of her house. His vulnerability forces Jackie to confront the failures of his past and create more positive circumstances in his own life. She progresses in training, maintaining a constructive connection with the new trainer Buddhakan (Sheila Atim).
Berry keeps the pace of his film slow. There’s no doubt that Jackie will find redemption, but the film has been slow to climb out of disgust, deriving an almost masochistic satisfaction from witnessing the humiliations that precede triumph.
Berry externalizes Jackie’s depression through a shaky camera and desaturated color palette. The film threatens to fade into unnamed browns and grays at times, but as a director, Berry draws energy from strenuous physical performances. Berry puts the cast, including himself, through stages of brutal grinding in the boxing ring, liberation from drunkenness, and catharsis of intimate sex. Because the camera quickly picks up traces of blood, sweat and tears, every ounce of tenderness seems hard-won.
R-rated for violence, swearing, sexually explicit material and brief nudity. The duration of the performance is 2 hours 9 minutes. Watch on Netflix.