2021 AFI Festival Review: Bruised

Directed by Halle Berry
Written by Michelle Rosenfarb
Starring Halle Berry, Shamier Anderson, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sheila Atim, Valentina Shevchenko, Danny Boy Jr.

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.

Before the film, Halle Berry spoke in-depth about the lengths it took to get this made. The leaps and boundaries from where the film began with the script to where it ended wasn’t an easy journey. But, I think the movie oozed a ton of heart and soul throughout because of this. You could feel the entire crew’s sense of urgency in attempting to turn out a great movie.

Bruised has a lot of your typical sports movie themes to it. First, we have the underdog in Jackie Justice, who was once on the verge of becoming the next big thing in MMA, but her demons got the best of her. Next, within this fall from grace, her boyfriend/manager isn’t the grandest of guys and Jackie is now cleaning toilets for people to make ends meet.

From here, upon watching the murder of his father, the son who Jackie abandoned has arrived back in her life; causing a mass panic from not just Jackie, but from her boyfriend as well. Thus, the film goes from Jackie feeling sorry for herself to the bounce back she needed.

The film as a collective isn’t anything new in this space but what stood out was each member of this cast. Manny Lyons Jr. plays the little boy in the film and says not even a single word throughout this entire film and shows more raw emotion than you see from veteran actors in this space. I was blown away by this little kid’s ability to captivate us without even opening his mouth. He has a big future in store for him.

A few other standouts in the film include Sheila Atim – I need her in more films ASAP. Also, Valentina Shevchenko played her role perfectly as the big main attraction for Jackie Justice at the end of the film. Stephen McKinley Henderson also was the great ring corner person needed to help inspire the journey. And of course, Halle Berry, who poured her heart and soul into this role and you could feel the emotions running through her performance.

The film’s climax has one of the better shot fight sequences in the octagon we have seen. The fight felt important because of the build and when you stepped into the ring, you felt every punch, kick, or takedown because of how it was shot.

Overall, Bruised is a fine film with good performances. But, unfortunately, the film lacked the risk it would take to make it go to the next level. It wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen already in the world of sports films, however, I would love to see Halle Berry behind the camera again soon.

The Verdict: B

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