As an off-shoot of Halle Berry’s electrifying performance in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”, she makes the leap to directing with the MMA drama “Bruised”. This is a more scar-filled story than most sports movies in which her talents as director and leading lady are greatly flexed.
While “Bruised” doesn’t break huge new ground in the underdog sports drama template, Halle Berry’s direction and performance as ‘Jackie’ make it a compelling story of someone stripped of everything they cared about – not so much about getting it all back – but learning to start anew…
Halle Berry portrays former MMA fighter, Jackie “Pretty Bull” Justice, with Danny Boyd Jr. portraying her mute son, Manny.
Sheila Atim plays Jackie’s trainer Bobbi Buddhakan Berroa, with Adan Canto playing her boyfriend, and fight manager Desi.
Shamier Anderson portrays fight promoter, Immaculate, with Stephen McKinley Henderson as Pops, a veteran trainer, while Adriane Lenox plays Jackie’s mother Angel, and real-life MMA champ Valentina Shevchenko plays Jackie’s opponent in the ring, Lucia “Lady Killer” Chavez.
Four years ago, Jackie Justice was rising to the top of the MMA world, but her shot at the big time ended in a humiliated defeat when Jackie leapt out of the cage from her opponent.
Jackie now works as a maid, with her abusive boyfriend and manager Desi trying to push her into an MMA comeback.
When Jackie defeats her opponent after being lured into an underground fight, which gets the attention of fight promoter Immaculate, and despite some reluctance on Jackie’s part, she finally agrees to join the Invicta Fighting Championships to face the reigning champion Lucia “Lady Killer” Chavez.
Jackie also finds another unexpected development when her mother drops the son she hasn’t seen since birth Manny on her doorstep, Manny having not spoken since his father died in a shooting.
As Jackie readies herself for the fight, she gradually begins to take on the role of being her son’s mother.
Even by sports drama standards, Jackie starts out in “Bruised” in a particularly bad place in her life, falling from the top to rock bottom in the most degrading way possible.
Bruised Starts Out from Lower than Rock Bottom
“Bruised” is about as fitting a title the movie could’ve possibly gotten, with Jackie’s personal life a wreck and her face covered in bruises and contusions for much of the story.
Even her return to MMA isn’t without its negative effects on her after Jackie learns the harsh truth about why Immaculate really wants her to fight Chavez.
Halle Berry Pulls You into a Story of Physical & Emotional Pain
For a first-time director, Halle Berry really knows how to pull viewers into a story that, at its core, is about physical and emotional pain; from the struggles Jackie goes through in re-entering the fight game to her efforts to be mother to the traumatized Manny.
Bruised Grueling Training Scenes: Berry Broke 3 Ribs
“Bruised” is relatively light on MMA fights, mostly saving this side of itself for the end with Jackie’s match with Chavez. The training scenes are so grueling however, that it’d be easy to assume that they’re simply footage of Berry’s actual training for the film!
“Bruised” goes a somewhat different direction from other sports dramas, in that Jackie’s situation, if anything, gets worse as the fight nears, including in her relationship with Manny and with Buddhakan.
Going from Bad to Worse before the Finale…
By the end, literally the only shot Jackie has left at much of anything is in the fight with Chavez.
Berry also clearly learned a lot about shooting action scenes from her role in “John Wick: Chapter 3”, with Jackie’s judo against Chavez’ kicks completely free of shaky cam and hyperactive editing.
As strong a showdown as it is, Jackie’s relationship with Manny is the anchor of the story, and Berry pays it off with a fittingly emotional final note.
“Bruised” saves its punches for when it counts, and keeps the audience on-board with an almost anti-“Rocky” story of its fighter losing more and more of what little she has left, with a slim shot at redemption being the only thing left to fight for by the end.
If Halle Berry’s career continues to take her down the road of directing, or leading martial arts films, she’s off to a strong start in both with “Bruised”.
Especially, with the film’s non-shaky cam-filled final fight, with a real-life UFC champion (no less), these quality facets effectively nail it.
- “You used to be Jackie Justice, right?” – Buddhakan (when Jackie enters the gym.)
- “Still am.” – Jackie (in reply.)
- “I’m Big and you’re Little. And Big protects Little.” – Jackie (to Manny after Desi loses his temper.)
- “First day back at school is always a bas*ard!” – Buddhakan (during Jackie’s training.)
- Halle Berry is a big MMA fan, and has attended many UFC fights.
- Nick Cassavettes was originally set to direct the movie, while Blake Lively was going to play the film’s lead. When Halle Berry later boarded as the lead, she began searching for a director, until eventually Netflix suggested Berry herself, leading to Berry making her directorial debut with “Bruised”.
- Halle Berry broke three ribs during production.
- Upon its release on Netflix on November 24, “Bruised” became the number one most streamed movie on the platform. Halle Berry also subsequently signed a multi-picture deal with Netflix.