Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: A disgraced MMA fighter finds redemption in the cage and the courage to face her demons when the son she had given up as an infant unexpectedly reenters her life.
Review: Rocky, Over the Top, Warrior, Cinderella Man and, uh, Never Back Down (I think that last one counts although we can all pretend the sequels never happened). These are all examples of films that follow a very specific formula—a down on their luck fighter who was once on the top of their game finds a reason to fight (literally) one more time and earn their redemption. Bruised, directed and starring Halle Berry as said fighter is the latest addition to this formula of films and while it doesn’t do anything special to stand out among this particular crowd, what it does it does pretty well.
I was watching a UFC match recently and saw Berry in the crowd and I thought it was to promote the film but it turns out she is actually a massive fan who regularly attends matches. So it makes sense her directorial debut (the film was originally set to be directed by Nick Cassavettes and star Blake Lively) would centre around a world she genuinely enjoys.
Surprisingly even with a runtime of two hours I never felt bored with the story of this woman who was once an undefeated champion until (for reasons we find out later on in the story) she ran out of a title match by jumping the cage. Her life isn’t an easy one and as we learn about her past trauma with her mother Angel (Adriane Lenox) her toxic relationship with boyfriend/manager Desi (Adan Canto) and her inability to hold down a job due to her volatile temper, we see why Berry is best when she takes on roles that play not just to her beauty but to her acting strengths as well. As petite as she is, the montage of her training her butt off (we can’t have a movie without a training montage can we?) added to Berry’s portrayal of her character Jackie Justice and makes it easy to believe she could actually be a real MMA fighter.
Her on-screen chemistry with Sheila Atim who plays her trainer Buddhakan was also one of the stronger aspects of the film and I enjoyed every scene they had together (although the sex scene did feel a bit gratuitous), as well as her scenes with youngster Danny Boyd Jr. who plays her son Manny. This little man is going to be one hell of an actor when he grows up as he manages to deliver such emotion to his role without saying a word!
Pacing, visuals, score, acting, it’s all handled very well here and I can honestly say I enjoyed Bruised from beginning to end. But the thing is there are so many other movies just like this one it’s hard to see how it stands out in any real way. Besides the fact that the lead character is a woman, Bruised relies heavily on the standard motifs found in similar films. Take Jake Gyllenhaal’s Stronger for example. While not exactly the same, we have a father who after losing his wife and his career ends up on a road to redemption because he wants his daughter back and wants to prove himself to her as well. Stallone’s Over the Top also has the father/son angle and here we see the parent/child dynamic once again. Warrior stood out as something truly great due to amazing performances yes, but also because the story was something different; it wasn’t trying to be Rocky 2.0.
So where do I stand on Bruised? Well on one hand I think as a directorial debut Halle Berry did a solid job of delivering a film that was well-paced and performed from beginning to end. Her love of mixed martial arts shows in the attention to detail in every aspect of her character’s training and the overall story is good from start to finish. On the other hand there’s nothing new here, nothing any fan of these types of stories haven’t seen before. It’s definitely worth a look but if you’re expecting something UN-expected, you might just come away a little disappointed.
Score 6.5 out of 10
For more of my thoughts on Bruised you can check out my video review below:
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Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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