“Bruisedia” is hard to call a passion project. Usually, when an actor chooses material for his directorial debut, he invokes a personal theme: it can be a childhood memory or a formative book. The “Bruised” project, originally associated with Nick Cassavetes, never reveals what Berry is fascinated about in the OCTs. We really never learn anything from rehearsal, which is reduced here to a “Rocky” influenced montage. The script tries to make Immaculate a villain; he records Jackie’s name, meat that can be thrown away because of a fast payday. But his motives are so opaque that you’re never quite sure if his intrigue is part of his galaxy-minded games or maliciously done. Lady Killer (Valentina Shevchenko), her opponent, will only be introduced in the final quarter of the film, taking away all the drama from the final battle.
Berry, as both an actor and a director, burns candles from both ends, eventually leaving both balls in the dark. He lacks chemistry with everyone: The child never feels like his son (even remotely), the mother never knows her mother, her love objects are dead wood on top of a barely perceptible flame. Berry overwork routinely. Likewise, with the exception of Atim and the rarely used Stephen McKinley Henderson, the other Actors. The film’s description of Frank G. DeMarco and Joshua Reis is an orange blast, the kind of heavy and serious lighting without aesthetic pleasures that has come to dominate contemporary filmmaking.
The title match between Jackie and Lady Killer, the very long culmination of the film, is made out of shock and respect. The mobile camera dances around the fighters and takes the viewers deep into the action. But “Bruised” makes an entry into any inspiring sports drama: it never confirms what Jackie is fighting for. Possibly his son. Possibly a little self-esteem. Maybe about love? We do not know. They are all seemingly on the table, but at the same time not, which makes redemption a more distant wish than a tangible goal. Nor does Berry’s film show a clear passion for the subject of the OCTs, which portrays the sport with a general eye, nor a measured eye for pruning abundant lower reaches. The “melody” hardly leaves traces.
Limited theatrical release today and on Netflix on November 24th.