Film Review – Hulu’s “Bruiser” is a Harrowing, Real-World Story with Little Resolution

Onyx Collective, Disney’s content brand designed to curate a slate of premium entertainment by creators of color and underrepresented voices, has focused primarily on telling real-world stories and its latest is no different. The human experience is often used as the sole focus of a film or series and that is the case with Bruiser.

In Hulu’s Bruiser 14-year-old Darious explores the boundaries of his manhood through tumultuous interactions 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 that may rip his family apart and threaten his safety..

The best way to describe Bruiser is that it is simply very real. Things don’t occur in this film that challenge any sort of suspension of disbelief. You could imagine seeing this story play out around you in your real life or maybe hearing about it on the news or from a friend. It’s very relatable in that way and that allows the audience to connect with these characters.

However, the film actually crosses a line and becomes too real at a certain point. We watch films to be entertained one way or another. Many of the elements of this film are so true to real life that it doesn’t play like a movie. At times, it’s unclear to the audience who they should even be rooting for. Malcolm is a somewhat abusive father but not to the point of being a clear antagonist. Porter has a dark past and lets his emotions get the best of him but also comes off as sympathetic at times. Again, these are qualities that make these characters very relatable and real but it doesn’t do much for the audience in terms of an entertaining story.

There is also very little in the way of a resolution or answers with this film. Yes, in the real world not everything is going to be resolved and sometimes we just have to roll with that. However, when you come out of a film without definitive answers, you’re simply left with an unsatisfied feeling. Some flashbacks to the pasts of these characters also would have been helpful to provide more context, but again would have broken those real-world rules.

Of course, part of the reason these characters feel so real is also due to the incredible work of the cast. Jalyn Hall, who plays Darious, does an excellent job of conveying the emotions of a conflicted teenager. Shamier Anderson (Malcolm) and Trevante Rhodes (Porter) also stand out as the opposing men in Darious’ life, with the former delivering some chilling moments in which a man struggles with his rage.

However, there are also some awkward moments with the characters. For example, some of the dialogue feels out of place when one character feels the need to repeat the name of Darious’ mother to him. There are also several unreasonable responses to various situations, which of course would occur in the real world, but they seem to occur more often than not in this film.

Those moments aside, the film really reaches a boiling point in its third act. With such a simple story and no clear protagonist or antagonist, it was difficult for the tension to build until one big decision is made. From then on, this film plays with an uneasiness that will keep the audience locked in.

Overall, Bruiser is a compelling real-world story. It’s not necessarily breaking any new ground and certainly not weaving a complex narrative. It delivers very real and relatable characters that are brought to life by a very talented cast. It has both good and bad moments, with the good slightly winning out in the end.

Bruiser will stream exclusively on Hulu on February 24th.

Mike Mack
Mack is the Editorial Director for Marvel and ESPN content and he has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed "nerd."