Available this morning on Netflix, Meurtrie is Halle Berry’s first film as a director. She also stars as a disgraced MMA champion.
What is it about ?
A former MMA champion grabs her last chance to redeem herself in the cage when the son she left behind returns in her life.
Meurtrie, a movie directed by Halle Berry, written by Michelle Rosenfarb, with Halle Berry, Sheila Atim, Shamier Anderson, Adriane Lenox…
Who is it with?
We no longer present Halle Berry: first black actress Oscar winner for a leading role, former James Bond girl, prone to all the raves but also holder of a Razzie Award (for Catwoman) that she went to seek herself. After 30 years of career, she goes behind the camera and at the same time offers herself the first role, that of Jackie Justice, a former MMA champion who has hit rock bottom after a crushing defeat.
In front of her, we find Adan Canto who plays her agent and her alcoholic boyfriend. He takes her one evening to attend a clandestine fight. From provocations to blows of balls, Jackie ends up being noticed by a promoter – played by Shamier Anderson, seen in The Passenger n ° 4 – who proposes to him to return in the cage.
To train it, it is the hypnotic Sheila Atim – seen in The Underground Railroad – who lends her features to Buddhakan, a zen but fierce trainer. Finally, we discover a young talent, that of Danny Boyd Jr, who plays Manny, the son Jackie abandoned and who is now 6 years old. He returns to Jackie’s chaotic life as her father has been killed.
Well worth a look ?
With Meurtrie, Halle Berry signs a real drama, quite classic in the genre “redemption film”, more than a film on the world of MMA. But it also falls into the category of films about fighters. They have this particularity that they must combine a raw portrait of the main character and a real expertise in the way of filming and of constructing the fight scenes.
And Halle Berry’s debut film is no exception to this rule. There is undoubtedly a courageous effort by the director, but she does not quite manage to find the right balance. Blame it on a stereotypical script, a rather uneven direction of the fights and also the impression that the character was not written to measure for Halle Berry – at the very beginning of the production, it is Blake Lively who was to play Jackie Justice edited by Nick Cassavetes.
Halle Berry’s most obvious asset as a director is her innate love for every character in the film. She sees them, reveals them all, and in each of her frames. She caresses her actors with the camera. For a beginner, she surprises us to excel in framing small moments, to create an intimacy between the characters – in particular between Jackie and her son, and Jackie and Buddhakan – which resonates throughout the film.
But there are still gaps that feed a certain frustration, like the training of Jackie, for example, which seems too artificial. And it is especially the fight scenes that are singularly lacking in nerve. The overly simplistic use of shaky-cam (or shaking camera) serves to fill the absence of a real choreography of fights.
That’s not to say that Halle Berry didn’t work hard to physically transform and appear as a more than credible MMA fighter. But we also guess that the director does not want to embarrass herself with these obligatory passages and that all she has in mind is to tell a bigger story, to transcend the story of the fighter.
As an actress, Halle Berry gives everything in each of her scenes. And she knew how to surround herself with the right people to convey an emotion. But the director seems to have failed to appreciate the importance of the emotions conveyed in scenes of epic fights that secures the viewer to his sofa.