By Dwight Brow
NNPA movie reviewer
The American Black Film Festival named actress-turned-director Halle Berry its official ABFF Ambassador in 2021. As the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary, Berry proudly presented her directorial debut Bruised. Normally the festival is held in Miami, but this year ABFF’s films noir was shown on their streaming service ABFFPLAY.com. One of the bright spots was Berry’s new movie.
Contused (** 1/2) – “I am tall and you are short.” And big protects little. Former UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) legend Jackie Justice (Halle Berry) is on his way home as a New Jersey mixed martial arts fighter and protective mother. That’s a lot of challenges for the character to digest and a lot of intrigue for an audience to believe. Yet this is what is on the pages of the clichÃ© script (Michelle Rosenfarb) that Berry uses as a plan. It’s like starting a boxing match with a weight on one foot. Respect the source material, but be aware that its words and wildcards put Berry’s best intentions to the test. Yet somehow, when the bell rings, Berry comes out of his corner – as a director / actor – and finds a way to build a story with heart and momentum that lasts until. on the last lap.
Drinking your problems does not help Justice’s fate. Her failed MMA career reduced her to cleaning houses and cleaning toilets for money. One fateful night, her volatile boyfriend and mischievous manager Desi (Adan Canto) forces her to attend an underground and unauthorized MMA match. Through an incident, Justice manages to show that she still has a fight in her bones. A shady promoter (Shamier Anderson) offers him the opportunity for a champion fight. It is a ray of hope complicated the day his mother (Adriane Lenox) shows up with a surprise: âHe’s your son. Her daddy is dead. The baby she abandoned at birth is now a child named Manny (Danny Boyd Jr.).
The script contains so much melodrama and backstory that it extends reality far beyond any norm. Abuse of children, spouses and parents. Alcoholism, Homelessness and Sneaky Gains. The latest overkill is a lesbian relationship that leads nowhere. But even these trivial machinations don’t thwart Berry’s strong instincts as a director. She gets decent to good performances from her casting. Martial arts fights are well staged and photographed (cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco). Everyone is chosen appropriately and wears clothes that reflect their being (costume designer Mirren Gordon-Crozier). Had editors, Jacob Craycroft and Terilyn A. Shropshire, exercised tighter control, 10-15 minutes of excessive footage would be on the editing room floor and the scenes wouldn’t drag on in this 2-piece feature film. h 9 min.
Canto as a brutal boyfriend is suitably threatening and temperamental. Anderson as a sketchy promoter is equally immoral. It’s great to see Stephen McKinley Henderson (Fences) in any movie, and especially here as a coach who steps up when justice needs him most.
Lenox (The Blind Side) plays the hard-talking fighter’s mother as a woman who gives what she gets in verbal quarrels. Sheila Atim (The Underground Railroad) honors the role of Buddy the Coach / Lover and steals stages with her stoic presence.
Berry’s skills behind the camera are a work in progress. In front of the camera, she is a virtuoso. No makeup, glamor or characteristic sex appeal. She looks her age (55) and her face looks as altered as that of any boxer who proudly wears the bruises and scars of her profession. She gets angry, sad, lost and loving, always playing on deep emotions. His best acting game is reserved for the ring. The bodily punches, punches and strangles – it makes it look like justice is fighting for its life.
Jackie said to Buddy. “I have to understand my lifeâ¦ I have to do it on my own.” Likewise, Berry seems highly motivated to pursue her goals as a director and shows great promise. She got it. Netflix audiences will be impressed.
On Netflix now.
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Visit NNPA syndication movie review Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com and BlackPressUSA.com.