‘Bruised’: Halle Berry directs herself in this red-hot awards contender

Twenty years after Halle Berry starred in “Monster’s Ball” and became the first and (to date) only Black woman to win Best Actress at the Academy Awards, the Oscar-winning performer is getting back in the awards-season ring — and this time with a movie she directed herself. It’s called “Bruised” and after a long and winding road to release — the mixed martial arts drama first screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2020 — Netflix will debut the film on November 24.

“They gave me the script and I loved the story, but it was written for a twentysomething Irish Catholic white woman,” Berry told Entertainment Weekly earlier this year. “I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so I thought, is it possible that this could be reimagined for someone like me? Because I think I have a take on it that could actually work — making it about a middle-aged Black woman, someone fighting for a last chance rather than another chance. When you’re young we all get chances, they’re a dime a dozen. But when you’re at a certain stage in life it becomes something more impactful and meaningful, right?”

Berry’s take on the material is what’s materialized in the first “Bruised” trailer, which finds the actress starring as a downtrodden former MMA fighter named Jackie Justice, who is given one last chance at glory in the ring while also dealing with her young son’s return. 

“It used to be when you were 40 your career was done, and I mean really done,” Berry said to EW. “Or you had to wait until you were old enough to play a grandma, and then you could have another bite at the apple, right? I mean, I couldn’t think that I’d be playing an MMA fighter at 54 years old. Yet I did, so it’s got to be changing. I’m proof of that.”

The Oscars 2022 Best Actress race remains loaded, with numerous other former winners and nominees (including Frances McDormand, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Olivia Colman, and Lady Gaga, among many others) vying for the five open slots. At the moment, Berry sits in the back half of the top-20 according to the Gold Derby Best Actress predictions odds. But if a nomination does materialize it could find Berry back at the Oscars alongside both Denzel Washington and Will Smith, both of whom faced off in the 2002 Best Actor race and are widely expected to compete with each other again in 2022. (Washington won that year for “Training Day”; according to the odds, Smith has the advantage this time around.)

Berry’s a longer shot in the Best Director category, ranking 36th in the combined odds. But it seems likely she’ll certainly have some supporters. “Halle, you know me and you go way back. So I’m not going to be telling you no bulls—. You know? We got a history,” Spike Lee, who directed Berry in her breakout performance in “Jungle Fever,” said in a joint interview with Berry. “So when you said, ‘Spike, I directed this film, and I want you to see the early cut.’ It was an honor…. And when I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh. This is hot.’ You’re playing a boxer, and I heard that you got a broken rib or something. But you persevered like, ‘What’s up?’ Just did your thing. And I’m looking forward to seeing the final cut, but just the early one you gave me, I was blown away.”

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