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Flix at :48: 'Bruiser' thoughtfully portrays the transition from boy to man

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A Black boy looks down. Behind him, two Black men stand looking at each other.

The rites of passage for growing boys are numerous and often include a first love, learning to drive, ignoring your parents and getting into fights. The film 'Bruiser,' released on Hulu on Feb. 24, illustrates these rights of passage in a coming of age story that is both violent and sentimental, both personal and universal.

'Bruiser' centers around a teenage boy named Darious (a mature Jalyn Hall from 'Till,' 2022) who leaves his expensive junior high prep school to spend summer vacation with his mom and dad in a small southern town. This lazy summer is interrupted when Darious meets a mysterious drifter named Porter (an intimidating Trevante Rhodes, 'Moonlight,' 2016) who reveals family secrets and inserts himself into Darious' life. Covered in muscles and tattoos, this drifter threatens the mental security of the nuclear family by stirring up past betrayals and current resentments.

Through scenes of authentic dialogue, slammed doors and nervous silences, 'Bruiser' is a patient and thoughtful portrait of the hazy, frustrating period between boyhood and manhood. Co-writer and director Miles Warren has given us his first feature-length film that shows the poisonous effects of physical violence and the limitations of masculinity. (The director had a short film version of 'Bruiser' included in the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.)

Strong, dominating Black men are so often highlighted in mainstream films as these serious bricks of unstoppable brute force or athletic talent, like in the films 'Blade' (1998), 'Friday Night Lights' (2004), and 'The Equalizer' (2014). 'Bruiser' avoids those stereotypes, and it's a breath of fresh air because of it. I feel it's rare to see a contemporary Black American film with so little physical action and so much emotional depth.

Fatherhood is complicated. The separation of families is painful. And male adolescence is fraught with bursts of anger. My only issue with 'Bruiser' is the instrumental musical score feels heavily fabricated in an attempt to hold each viewers hand and tug them through the intended emotional shifts.

With two opposing influences on a young man's life, from two very different men, this film is careful to avoid taking sides or portraying anyone as a hero or villain. Instead, the viewer decides themselves. But the ending may surprise you.

'Bruiser' is not the film of the season for me. But it is good, and it lays the foundation for a promising future with the director and the actors.

Casey T. Allen is a native of Utah who graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree in English in 2007. He has worked in many capacities throughout USU campus and enjoys his time at UPR to continually exercise his writing.