Halle Berry broke two ribs while shooting this clichéd but “gutsy” film about a mixed-martial arts fighter, said Tim Robey in The Daily Telegraph. She stars as Jackie Justice, a former MMA champ who has turned to booze since a disastrous fight knocked her out of her profession, and who now scrubs loos for a living. Two events lure Justice back to the ring: her son Manny (Danny Boyd Jr.), whom she abandoned years ago, is dumped on her doorstep, and a fast-talking promoter (Shamier Anderson) decides to cash in on her hibernating talents. Bruised, which is also Berry’s directorial debut, is a classic redemption story – “with a mother-and-child rapprochement added for good measure” – and while it’s a “marks-for-effort sort of film”, it has bags of “gritty emotional clout”.
The only problem is, the film is “entirely unsurprising”, said Wendy Ide in The Observer. It takes on all the worn-out tropes of the fight movie so earnestly it’s as if Berry “simply isn’t aware” of the clichés splattered across the plot – but there’s a “saving grace” in the form of the British stage actress Sheila Atim, who is “arresting” as Justice’s trainer. Bruised won’t win awards for originality, said Adam Sweeting on The Arts Desk: “think of it as Rocky IX – #MeToo”; but Berry’s performance has visceral force. She has thrown herself into this role with “self-flagellating relish”, setting herself far apart from her “botoxed, plastic-surgeried and multi-implanted peers”. And in the “staggeringly brutal” final slugfest, you feel “every punch, kick and chokehold with numbing force”.