Written by Maria Athayde
Bruised is a mixed martial arts drama starring and directed by Halle Berry in her directorial debut. This film is right up my alley. A sports drama lead by a female protagonist. It recounts the story of Jackie Justice (Halle Berry) a former MMA fighter with a drinking problem on a journey to make her way back to the cage. Part of what motivates this comeback is the reappearance of Jackie’s son Manny who she had not seen in years. Paired with a new trainer Buddhakan (Sheila Atim) Jackie starts to gain her old form back as she prepares for Lady Killer (Valentina Shevchenko) who she’ll fight in a flyweight title bout in Atlantic City. While she trains for the championship fight Jackie tries to manage her relationship with her volatile manager and boyfriend Desi, her son Manny, her mom Angela as well as her burgeoning relationship with Buddhakan.
All these components lead to a movie that feels too short and too long at the same time. There was no balance between what Jackie was inside the cage and who she was outside of the cage. I attribute this inconsistency to the cliché ridden screenplay written by first-time screenwriter Michelle Ronsenfarb. Everything horrible that could happen to a person including family trauma, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and self-doubt is carelessly dotted in the screenplay with no payoff. If this were a series instead of a movie all these additional layers would make sense but as it stands they make Jackie feel like an amalgamation of trauma and not a real character.
Don’t get me wrong both in front and behind the camera Berry does the best with what she’s got. She embraces and embodies the physicality needed to play this character. Sheila Atim was equally mesmerizing as Buddhakan. The all-women rap soundtrack executive produced by Halle Berry and Cardi B was a historic first and the best thing to come out of this movie. Even with these qualms I anxiously await to see what project Berry takes on next behind the camera.
Bruised is currently available to stream on Netflix.