Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
USA/United Kingdom, 2020. Romulus Entertainment, Aloe Entertainment, Bohemia Media, Entertainment 360, Head Gear Films, Metrol Technology, Rhea Films, Thunder Road Pictures. Screenplay by Michelle Rosenfarb. Cinematography by Frank G. DeMarco. Produced by Halle Berry, Guymon Casady, Terry Dougas, Brad Feinstein, Linda Gottlieb, Gillian Hormel, Basil Iwanyk, Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis, Erica Lee. Music by ASKA. Production Design by Elizabeth J. Jones. Costume Design by Mirren Gordon-Crozier. Film Editing by Jacob Craycroft, Terilyn A. Shropshire.
The familiar tropes of a well-worn genre feel like traditions rather than cliches when they’re done with the level of straightforward honesty that star and debuting director Halle Berry brings to this latest in a long series of redemption tales centering around prizefighting. She was once a promising MMA fighter who walked away from her career and, at the beginning of this drama, is cleaning houses when an altercation with her employer’s son requires her to quit in a hurry. Out of options as to what to do next, she follows her boyfriend (Adan Canto) to a basement brawl attended by spectators, where she is provoked into a fight and proves her mettle despite being years out of practice, much older than when she was at her best, and hampered by a dependence on sneaking alcohol in cleaning bottles every chance she gets.
When she gets home, she gets the surprise of a lifetime when she finds her mother (Adriane Lenox) on her doorstep with a little boy in tow, the child that Berry had left as a baby but who is now her responsibility because her undercover ex-husband has been killed on the job. Berry’s prowess with a punch gets noticed by the right people and she is given the opportunity to train for a real fight, set up with a coach (Sheila Atim) who pushes her to be the best that she can be, which Berry struggles to do while coming out of an emotional coma that requires her to do what is necessary for her kid, including getting him enrolled in school, protecting him from Canto’s increasing violence and trying to connect with him enough to get the completely silent boy to speak.
There is simply no getting around the fact that you can predict every turn the plot is going to make as Berry goes from zero to hero, but the intensity of her performance, the way she manages to make her emotionally grounded state seem so effortless to pull off, and the powerful interactions she has with all her co-stars makes it exciting and satisfying to experience this tale as old as time. The drama has no unnecessary weight to it and the character’s backstories are all precise and intimate, we move through each stage of the process smoothly without feeling rushed, and the generous running time of more than two hours goes by easily.
Toronto International Film Festival: 2020