HOLLYWOOD (News4usonline) – Halle Berry’s latest offering to the movie industry is both sensational and complex at the same time.
In case you have not seen the trailer, “Bruised” lives up to its title. There is a lot of raw energy going around. Blood and guts are spilled at just about every turn wherever Berry’s character, Jackie Justice, goes. If you’re squeamish to seeing controlled violence (and there’s plenty of it) then this film is not for you.
Outside of “Monster’s Ball,” this film is unlike many other movie projects that Berry has made in the past. It’s gritty. It’s dark. And it has plenty of violence (what films these days don’t have violence), in the form of domestic abuse and boxing scenes, to keep you riveted to your seats.
Without going into super spoiler alert, “Bruised” is a film about redemption. Besides the occasional hit like Denzel Washington’s “The Hurricane,” Robert De Niro’s “Raging Bull,” or Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby,” and for that matter, Sylvester Stallone’s iconic “Rocky” series, movies that involve the sweet science, tend to be a bit on the cheesy side and unwatchable.
That’s not necessarily the case with “Bruised.” While the film has some hiccups, Berry gives a credible performance as a downtrodden and almost forgettable figure in the MMA world who gets a chance to upgrade her living conditions. When we first meet Justice, she is just another popup on the streets, someone just trying to get her hustle on.
By day, Justice makes living cleaning toilets. By night, Justice transforms into a woman who can’t find her way past the stench of alcohol, a raggedy home life, and an abusive boyfriend who is obsessed with getting his live-in partner back into the ring.
The good ambiance of a movie is detailed storytelling. Berry does this pretty well in her directorial debut. “Bruised,” which made its premiere at AFI Fest in November, is believable. The film has a good concept.
But having a solid idea does not mean that will flip into fruition. Besides finding herself at a crossroads in her life-socially and economically, Justice gets an unexpected parenthood package dumped on her in the form of a young boy who cannot speak.
Interestingly enough, young Manny Lyons Jr., played by Danny Boyd Jr., winds up stealing the thunder from Berry and the rest of the cast. Navigating through the film, it is the non-verbal communication from young Manny that impacts the film.
That’s because the eyes from the fatherless boy become ground zero to how “Bruised” is seen. Manny’s silence is the strength of the film. When he cries, you feel his tears. When he exudes a sense of abandonment, you understand the detachment. Manny gives “Bruised” an emotional pulse.
Take away Manny from the film and “Bruised” becomes nothing more than an empty vessel of a movie with a lot of background noise. The parental disclaimer to Manny forces Justice to re-think the downward spiral of her life and it motivates her to get off the can to do better. Kids have a way of doing that.
As she works through her newfound motherhood role, Justice is constantly reminded of her past life of being a top MMA fighter. Ultimately, the movie winds its way to the part where Justice is offered to fight for a title.
This is where the movie is a stretch. Unless you’re Mike Tyson or Floyd Mayweather Jr., nobody is walking off the street to get a prime opportunity to fight for a championship. Alas, it’s Hollywood, so we’ll roll with the flow here. Let’s start with some kudos to Berry, who is a woman in her mid-50s, playing the role of a female character at least 20 years her junior.
Berry looks fantastic. Then again, when has she not? The brutal training that a typical MMA fighter goes through is on display in the film through the unforgiving workouts that Justice goes through under the watchful eyes of her trainer (Sheila Atim).
Atim, playing as Buddakan, provides the perfect balance to Justice as a mentor and a friend. She is both empathetic and tough. The journey that “Bruised” puts the audience on is a feel-good story that sometimes dips into the realms of life’s harsh realities.
You’re either going to make it or you’re not. You’re either going to thrive or settle for less than what you’re called to do. Justice constantly wrestles with these dynamics that are at play. Sometimes you want to root for Justice. At other times, you just want to wash your hands of her. This is what makes “Bruised” a quality film to watch.
Featured Image Caption: BRUISED (2021), HALLE BERRY as JACKIE JUSTICE, DANNY BOYD JR. as MANNY LYONS JR. Photo by JOHN BAER/NETFLIX © 2021
Dennis has covered politics, crime, race, social justice, sports, and entertainment. His work as a reporter has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Daily Breeze, Daily Press, AFRO, Los Angeles Sentinel, and Los Angeles Wave. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the editor and publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper.