THE STORY – 14-year-old Darious explores the boundaries of his manhood with Malcolm, his strict but loving father, and Porter, a charismatic drifter. When Darious learns Porter’s true identity, he is thrust into a conflict between the two men.
THE CAST – Trevante Rhodes, Shamier Anderson, Jalyn Hall & Shinelle Azoroh
THE TEAM – Miles Warren (Director/Writer) & Ben Medina (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 97 Minutes
Domestic dramas can be a fascinating world to explore, one that provides a personal perspective on the plights of realistic individuals. It can be easy for such material to turn manipulative or melodramatic, but it can also be a powerful experience when given the right set of circumstances. These are often the landscapes to analyze a complex set of characters that can inform a great deal about the surrounding world. “Bruiser” operates in this register to showcase a force of disruption that brings about an immense change to a stable unit, and it does so with a compelling tone.
The summer break has just begun for fourteen-year-old Darious (Jalyn Hall), and he finds himself at a particular spot in his development. The angst of a mundane family life that forces him to tolerate an awkward period with his prep school ignites an influx of anxieties. Both his parents are sensitive to his hardships, with Malcolm (Shamier Anderson), his father, taking an extreme interest in providing his son with the best opportunities in life. One day, Darious wanders into the surrounding forest area and encounters a stranger. He introduces himself to the young man as Porter (Trevante Rhodes). The two strike an immediate bond as Darious is drawn to this charismatic loner who provides a different sort of comfort that is absent from his parental figures. However, the two are bonded beyond this simple encounter, and their meeting soon reveals a dark history that will complicate the fragile balance that has been built, forever altering the course of each participant’s life.
Director Miles Warren crafts this piece with a tender intimacy that is quite endearing at its core. The scope is grounded in its portrayal while also indulging in an artistic flare that constantly keeps one invested. The character studies are attached to people who come with a realistic sense of nuance, punctuated by dynamic filmmaking to give vibrancy to this environment. The directorial efforts are a bit more effective than the writing, as the script from Warren and Ben Medina establishes some pedestrian arcs that don’t have a great deal of innovation in their unfolding. It’s still engaging, though as the drama intensifies and the tension escalates, so too do the more histrionic depictions of this conflict. That element is far less appealing and weakens the impact of the narrative overall. Still, there is a strong thematic commentary on the nature of toxic masculinity and how it overwhelms those with sincere intentions. Even when some aspects falter, the storytelling is still engrossing,
After delivering a captivating performance last year in “Till,” Hall again demonstrates his talents as a performer. Here he dutifully captures the uneasiness of a teenager dealing with the usual awkwardness and rebellions of life. When he is thrust into a dramatic development, he carries a weight that is quite impressive. The rapport he shares with Rhodes is charming; he himself is also an excellent asset to this ensemble. Rhodes embodies an alluring energy, a mixture of compassion and danger at every turn, making him a beguiling figure. However, the real star of the show is Anderson. He portrays a fascinating figure whose paternal warmth beams through while also dealing with the demons that obscure his persona and relationships. It’s an intense turn that delivers both unconditional love and dangerous wrath in a manner that never betrays authenticity. He is the best facet in a reliable cast, rounded out by an inviting turn from Shinelle Azoroh, the matriarch who is also devastating in the few moments she has to offer.
At the core of “Bruiser” is a dissection of the layered discussions necessary for the evolution of one’s character and how difficult it can be to leave the past behind truly. It is an imperfect portrait, with the screenplay often not quite reaching the heights necessary to make this story truly unique. However, the direction assembles enough features to fashion an intriguing plot, and a set of appealing performances compels one to be lured in. The film is another example of a well-made examination of broken lives, a familiar scenery with a stimulating result.