Halle Berry’s ‘Bruised’ premiered at the American Film Institute over the weekend and has since then received impressive accolades on the critic’s chalk board. Despite Berry’s appreciative performance, which will certainly remind viewers of her glorious script choices some two decades ago (remember ‘Monster’s Ball’), the Oscar winner’s labour of love (as she describes it) does not hit all chords for a perfect body of work.
Directed by Berry, ”Bruised’ takes audience through the brutal story of Jackie Jack, a disgraced MMA fighter who has a renewed hope of getting back into the arena once more to redeem herself, but at the same time faced with the responsibility of taking care of her 6-year-old son who she abandoned shortly after he was born.
The script by Michelle Rosenfarb was originally written for a 21-year-old white woman, but later became a Berry’s attachment after the Oscar-winner showed interest in playing the part. The script underwent a series of rewrites and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year as a work in progress before Netflix threw in a bid to secure rights over the movie.
Navigating through the film’s storyline holds a loose string to the real-life Hollywood journey of Berry. The bruises and sweats highlighted in the film’s visual representation carves perfectly well with Berry’s post Oscar journey where she has clearly been seen suffering from getting her hands on a script that suits her level of expertise. It therefore won’t come as a surprise to audience when they see Berry in full awards season action, thanks to the heads up given by critics.
Stephen Farber of The Hollywood Reporter champions Berry for her excellent work as a director with keen interest to character developments, but not well-established to harness the technicalities that come with showcasing the full sweat of bloodied ring fighter.
”As a director, Berry’s strengths lie in her attention to the performances. This is often a gift that actor-directors bring to their movies. Atim makes the trainer ruthless when necessary and tender when her relationship with Jackie blossoms. As Jackie’s son, young Danny Boyd Jr. speaks eloquently without a word of dialogue. The marvelous Stephen McKinley Henderson (also seen this fall in ‘Dune’) doesn’t have enough to do until the film moves toward the climactic fight scene between Jackie and the ferocious Lady Killer (real UFC champion Valentina Shevchenko)”.
He continues, ” The fight scenes are skillfully choreographed, but in other respects Berry’s direction is shaky. She and cinematographers Frank G. DeMarco and Joshua Reis rely on too much handheld camerawork and an excessive use of close-ups. Berry often fails to establish the locations as a result of the ever-swirling camera. And although certain passages have energy, the film definitely could have used a tighter hand in the final edit. On the other hand, the score by Aska Matsumiya adds a fresh, jangly energy to the picture”.
Yolanda Machado of The Wrap also chimes a similar review in her piece when she praised Berry for coordinating the role of and development of every single character so well without a miss.
”Berry’s strongest asset as a director is her innate love for every single character in the film. She sees them all, and in every frame, she and director of photography Frank G. DeMarco (“A Mouthful of Air”) caress her actors with the camera”, wrote Machado. She continues, ”For a first-timer, Berry’s eye excels in the framing of small moments, crafting an intimacy between characters — particularly between Jackie and her son, and Jackie and Buddhakan — that resonates throughout the movie. But there are several other moments that feel unearned, with script and editing choices simplifying certain scenes (Jackie’s training, for instance), never really providing much room on which to build”.
Deadline’s Pete Hammond headlines his piece as ”Halle Berry Directs Herself Into No-Hold-Bared Portrayal of MMA Fighter Looking For Redemption”. It very well commends Berry for sustaining her credits as a revered movie star who doesn’t shy away from any role nor underwhelms her own capabilities when she picks up one.
”Berry, who certainly impressed when she kicked ass in John Wick 3, actually went straight into this role from that and she has earned her action stripes, at 55 (!) — somehow proving believable and adept as an older, washed-up MMA fighter who strives to show she can still do it against all odds. You gotta give Berry credit”, writes Hammond.
He continues, ”Into the mix she delivers a rounded, three-dimensional turn as a woman emerging from past mistakes to take herself into account and turn her life around. Berry certainly knows a strong role when she sees it and clearly wanted to protect it by jumping into the directorial ring as well. What some scenes lack in subtlety she makes up for with the sheer will to simply pull this all off in the first place”.
Variety on their part under the critic lens of Peter Debruge, constructs Berry’s decades-long charisma on the big screen and as such sees it as her strongest tool in ‘Bruised’.
”Let’s be clear: Halle Berry is a movie star, and as such, she radiates charisma in a way most of her peers only dream of doing. Whether it’s chasing down a kidnapper in wild-eyed mama-bear mode (“Kidnap”) or holding her own opposite a top assassin (“John Wick 3”), Berry is best when she’s playing extraordinarily capable superwomen. It’s a lot less fun watching her snuff out her natural wattage, beating herself up in pursuit of “serious actor” cred — the kind that comes whenever a cosmetics spokesperson sheds the makeup to play a haggard has-been (à la Nicole Kidman in “Destroyer”). Berry goes one step further, looking black and blue for much of “Bruised,” Debruge wrote.
”Bruised” will have a theatrical run from Wednesday, November 17 before landing on Netflix on November 24.