It’s hard to call “Bruised” a passionate project. Typically, when an actor chooses material for his directorial debut, it revolves around a personal topic: it could be a childhood memory or a training book. With “Bruised”, a project initially attached to Nick Cassavetes, you never see what Berry finds fascinating in MMA. We certainly never learn anything about training, which is reduced here to a montage of “Rocky” inspiration. The script tries to position Immaculate as a bad guy; he reserves Jackie for his name, meat that can be thrown away for a quick paycheck. But his motives are so opaque that you never really know if his machinations are all part of his galactic mind games or are maliciously crafted. Lady Killer (Valentina Shevchenko), his opponent, is only shown in the last quarter of the film, depriving the final fight of any drama.
Berry, as an actor and director, burns candles at both ends, ultimately leaving both spheres in the dark. She lacks chemistry with everyone: the child never feels like her son (even from afar), her mother never feels like her mother, her love interests are dead wood on top of a barely flame. perceptible. Berry regularly exaggerates. Just like, with the exception of Atim and a rarely used Stephen McKinley Henderson, the rest of the cast. The cinematography of Frank G. DeMarco and Joshua Reis’ film is an orange-tinged dirge, the kind of overly serious lighting without any aesthetic pleasure that dominates modern cinema.
The title fight between Jackie and Lady Killer, the film’s very long climax, is rendered for shock and awe. The animated camera dances around the fighters, immersing viewers in the thick of the action. But “Bruised” commits what’s a cardinal sin in any inspiring sports drama: it never establishes what Jackie is fighting for. Maybe his son. Maybe a minimum of self-esteem. Maybe for love? We do not know. They’re all apparently on the table, and at the same time, no, making redemption more of a distant desire than a palpable goal. Likewise, Berry’s film does not show a clear passion for the subject of MMA, rendering the sport with a generic gaze, nor a measured eye for pruning copious subplots. “Bruised” barely leaves a mark.
In limited theaters today and on Netflix on November 24.