Bruised review – Halle Berry’s MMA fighter keeps her eye on the prize | Movies

Halle Berry leaves it pretty late to turn on the energy for her directing debut – until the final round, in fact. But this fight movie, in which Berry herself plays a burned-out MMA fighter struggling to make a comeback, concludes with an extended showdown in which her character gets climactically in the cage with a ferocious UFC champ called Lady Killer, played by real-life martial artist Valentina Shevchenko, in front of a packed crowd eager for an ass-kicking. Berry makes it look good; she faces off with the real deal and she herself looks like a perfectly plausible deal. You’ll forgive the cliches and sentimentality that went before … just about.

Berry plays Jackie Justice, a renowned fighter who was brutally beaten in her last match, as a result of being exploited by her abusive boyfriend-slash-manager Desi (Adan Canto), and slumps into depression and alcoholism. Then her own mother (Adriane Lenox), insists that Jackie starts looking after Manny (Danny Boyd Jr), her young son from a previous relationship. Moreover, a big-time MMA manager (Shamier Anderson) contacts Jackie, looking to set her up in a new fight for cynical reasons of his own. All these things combine to inspire in Jackie a new purpose, and she approaches a trainer, Bobbi (Sheila Atim) who works with grizzled veteran Pops (Stephen McKinley Henderson) – they of course see in Jackie a glimmer of the right stuff, and the only way is up.

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.

Bruised is released on 19 November in cinemas and on 24 November in Netflix.

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