REVIEW: Bruised Features Almost Every Fighting Movie Trope To Its Detriment
Bruised is the latest Netflix original movie featuring a big-name star. Halle Berry stars in this female-centric fighting movie that’s all about second chances and redemption. But not only that, the Oscar-winning actress even goes behind the camera to make her directing debut with Bruised. But despite its best intentions, the movie ends up a recycled and regurgitated version of many other movies in the same genre, only without the same impact. Check out my spoiler-filled Bruised movie review.
What Is Bruised All About?
Bruised is all about Jackie Justice (Halle Berry), a former fighter who is down on her luck. The movie opens with a cool POV sequence of Jackie getting beat up in her last official Ultimate Fighting Championship fight. Beat up so badly, that she climbed and disgracefully exited the ring, forfeiting the fight. Since then, it’s been a downward slope for Jackie. Currently, she is cleaning houses while living with her emotionally abusive boyfriend-slash-former manager.
Things are bad for Jackie. She’s broke, depressed, struggling with life, and refuses to fight. Even though she’s apparently still got some fight left in her. When her dirtbag boyfriend takes her to an underground fight, hoping to provoke her into fighting again but instigating a fight with the biggest woman there, things get interesting. Jackie demolishes the reigning champion in a street fight. But by doing so, she catches the eye of a fight promoter who wants her to train with him. Things are looking up. But not for long.
The tropes just keep coming one after the other in Bruised, so much so that it’s jarring.
The Premise Of Bruised Feels Familiar. And It Is.
So far, Bruised is an interesting movie led by a superstar. Berry is unlike we’ve ever seen her, and she does it well. Where things take a left turn into mediocre, is during the setup. Already in the opening scenes, we know that Berry is broke and struggling to maintain a livelihood. She also has a toxic relationship with an emotionally abusive man. She’s also, seemingly, an alcoholic. Then, they also throw in the sudden appearance of her estranged mother. Oh, and she’s brought her long-lost son that she gave up after birth. So she has to take care of him now. And later on, she gets a title fight with the reigning Featherweight champion because— the story needs a villain? I guess.
The tropes just keep coming one after the other in Bruised, so much so that it’s jarring. It’s a story of the redemption of a former fighter. But also of overcoming obstacles and addiction. But also of being inspired to fight by a child. And also standing up for yourself and ending a toxic relationship. But it’s not over! Around halfway into the movie, you also learn that she was raped and abused under her mother’s care by her boyfriends and her own uncle. This reveal comes so suddenly and out of nowhere, that it’s not given any time to breathe. Especially because we never address it after. It just is, and Jackie and her mother Angel (Adriane Lenox), just never deal with it? It’s weird.
Bruised Has No Stakes And Fight Choreography Doesn’t Work.
Bruised has a lot of emotional build-ups. The character development comes at the expense of all the fighting and training parts. You know, the staple of a fighting movie. Jackie’s training scenes in the gym are lackluster. The montages fail to excite or inspire. At times, it feels like we only go back to the gym to see her halfheartedly train, because the movie needed a break from the emotionally charged scenes between the characters.
The movie does nothing to elevate the boxing or fighting movie genre.
There are also zero stakes. Jackie was vehemently against fighting all this time. But then, when she gets an offer to do so, she just takes it. There’s no promise of money or fame initially, just train for an opportunity. Possibly. So why is she doing it? And even after, when offered the championship match, it doesn’t feel like it’s something she wants to do anyways. So when we get to the final fight, we’re not sure what she’s planning on getting out of this. So it’s hard to root for her. Especially because that last fight, has zero context in the story. As Jackie fights her opponent, the ring announcers get very excited at things that the audience has no way of knowing.
There are all these technical UFC terms thrown around, but that have zero impact on the uninitiated, because there was no setup for those words beforehand. No montages showed Jackie grappling, or strategizing with her trainers, or anything. No moment like switching back to Southpaw in Rocky, surprising her opponent. Just the out-of-context narrating of a fight as a climax doesn’t really mean anything.
Bruised Is A Non-Contender
Overall, Bruised is a pass. The movie does nothing to elevate the boxing or fighting movie genre. There are no emotional stakes to pay off any of the character development that the movie spends its entire time focusing on. And even at the end, there doesn't feel like there’s any emotional resolution to the events that we just experienced. They just happened.
Bruised is now streaming on Netflix.
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