Courtesy Netflix

When Halle Berry initially read the script for Bruised, the washed-up, traumatized former mixed martial arts champion at its center was a white, twentysomething Irish woman. The Netflix movie—starring Berry, who also makes her directorial debut—now centers on a middle-aged Black woman, Jackie Justice. Both Jackie’s age and skin color heighten the stakes immeasurably. From 1931’s The Champ to Girlfight and beyond, the redemption arc of fighting-phoenix-from-the-ashes plots aren’t hard to predict. But screenwriter Michelle Rosenfarb renders a story unlike its predecessors in crucial aspects. The end is fairly predictable. The way it gets there is decidedly not. In addition to brutal training montages (Rocky could never), Bruised takes on Jackie’s fight to become a mother to her six-year-old son, who she left as a baby and is back on her doorstep just as she’s re-entering the ring. There’s a scene where Jackie’s buying less than $25 of groceries so she can feed the kid she wasn’t expecting to see again. She only has $20, but the stone-faced bodega cashier won’t give her a break. Jackie puts back a box of tampons. It’s a tiny moment, but it says a lot about a country where insurance will cover erectile dysfunction but not the most fundamental health-care items women need. It reveals as much about Jackie as the bone-crunching fight scenes (watch for UFC flyweight champion Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko as Lady Killer). Featuring Sheila Atim as Buddhakan, Jackie’s lead trainer and a luminous, fully-developed woman in her own right, Bruised is, yes, a knockout. R, 129 min.

On Netflix and in select theaters