Bruised (2020)

Posted in Reviews by - November 26, 2021
Bruised (2020)

Stirring sports drama from producer, director and star, Halle Berry. It’s an incredibly confident directorial debut from the Academy Award-winning actor, who manages to conjure up an evocative family drama with grit and poignancy, even if it does tick-off every sports movie cliche in the book, from Rocky to The Wrestler to Warrior. Berry gives everything to the role of New Jersey UFC legend, Jackie ‘Pretty Bull’ Justice; she’s intense, vulnerable, angry, and – even at 55 – just as powerful in the octagon as she is in the dramatic scenes. It seems her martial arts training for John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum continues to reap new rewards – particularly during the film’s gruelling final grudge match in which she more than holds her own against a real-life MMA fighter, Valentina Shevchenko, aka ‘Lady Killer’. You will struggle to find a more committed performance from a Hollywood star in recent years. (It’s worth remembering the film was originally designed as a vehicle for Blake Lively, with Nick Cassavetes down to direct). It’s been four years since Jackie’s last MMA bout, in which she was humiliated and left climbing the cage looking for a way out. She’s now on a downward spiral; fired from her job as a cleaner, hiding drink around the home, chain-smoking, living with an abusive partner (who is also her manager), and taking crap from her dysfunctional mother. And then, a light enters her life in the form of her infant son, who has returned into her care following the death of his father. Simultaneously, she starts training for a comeback bout – not just to earn money, but to also restore some self-respect, purpose, and pride. The story covers a lot of ground – domestic abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholism, absenteeism, sexuality, mummy issues, toxic masculinity, anxiety – and if this was less competently made, the film would quickly and easily become overwrought, mawkish, and exhausting. Surprisingly, it’s none of those things. The clincher is Berry; despite its lack of originality, you can’t help but be swept along by the blood, sweat and tears in her captivating, challenging performance.

Out now on Netflix.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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