Bruised is a 2020 American action drama about a disgraced MMA fighter who finds redemption in the cage and the courage to face her demons. However, the son she had given up as an infant then unexpectedly reenters her life.
Directed by and starring Halle Berry – making her directorial debut – from a screenplay written by Michelle Rosenfarb.
Jackie Justice (Halle Berry) is a mixed martial arts fighter who leaves the sport in disgrace. Down on her luck and simmering with rage and regret years after the fight, she’s coaxed into a brutal underground fight by her manager and boyfriend Desi and grabs the attention of a fight league promoter who promises Jackie a life back in the Octagon.
However, the road to redemption becomes unexpectedly personal when Manny – the son she gave up as an infant – shows up at her doorstep.
” …while Bruised doesn’t deliver on all its promises, Berry absolutely makes an impression by making something quiet out of a story that’s often quite loud. It’s usually full of masculine bombast and posturing, something Rosenfarb is quick to highlight as the toxicity of that kind of masculinity is far more reductive than it is uplifting.” Elements of Madness
“All the constituent scenes in this film, scripted by newcomer Michelle Rosenfarb, are very broad, Bobbi’s character is a little underwritten and the ending itself is broadly predictable, but Berry brings commitment and focus to the drama. She wins on points.” The Guardian
” …a dynamic debut as a director for Berry, with her reverence for grounded realism, in particular, giving the film palpable credibility as it depicts the fierce world of MMA fighting. Even if Bruised isn’t the holistic knockout many were hoping it’d be for Berry, there are many excellent elements here or there, not the least of which is Berry’s own captivating central performance…” Loud and Clear
“The title bout between Jackie and Lady Killer, the film’s very long climax, is rendered for shock and awes. The lively camera dances around the fighters, taking viewers deep into the action. But Bruised commits what’s a cardinal sin for any inspirational sports drama: It never establishes what Jackie is fighting for.” RogerEbert.com
“The two fights meet expectations but aren’t Creed or Southpaw level […] It focuses more on the drama side than the sports side, and in doing so, it diversifies building to the finale by not just making it about the training and what happens in the ring, but also the person who not just physically, but mentally and emotionally has to be present to win.” Wherever I Look
“Berry’s direction hits its biggest shortfall in the fight scenes, opting at times for the overused shaky-cam effect in an attempt to hide the fight choreography that is crucial for a film about a MMA fighter. That isn’t to say that Berry hasn’t put in the work to transform herself physically into the character; she most definitely did. But the direction doesn’t make room for that transition to register.” The Wrap
Bruised premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 12th September 2020.
The film is available for streaming on Netflix on November 24th 2021.
Cast and characters:
Stephen McKinley Henderson … Pops
Halle Berry … Jackie Justice
Nikolai Nikolaeff … Igor
Denny Dillon … Crazy Esther
Sheila Atim … Bobbi Buddhakan Berroa
Shawna Hamic … School Secretary
Danny Boyd Jr. … Manny Lyons Jr
Karle Gwen … MMA Fight Guest
Mark Rhynard … Russian MMA Fighter
Scottie DiGiacomo … VIP / MMA Ringside Judge
David Hammond … Smoker
Kristoffe Brodeur … Fight club bouncer
C.G. Alexander … Russian Gangster
Delissa Reynolds … Mrs Feelgood
Melanie Waldman … Photographer
Stephan Jackson … Ringside VIP
John Cashin … Russian Gangster
Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Elite Heat Boxing Gym – 130 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Newark, New Jersey
Bruised was originally set to be directed by Nick Cassavetes and star Blake Lively, before Berry took over both roles.
Q&A interview with Halle Berry: