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Redbelt (2008)



Average Rating: 6.3/10
Reviews Counted: 140
Fresh: 94 | Rotten: 46

Mamet's mixed marital arts morality play weaves between action and intellect but doesn't always hit its target.


Average Rating: 6.3/10
Critic Reviews: 39
Fresh: 25 | Rotten: 14

Mamet's mixed marital arts morality play weaves between action and intellect but doesn't always hit its target.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 21,842

My Rating

Movie Info

Tim Allen and Chiwetel Ejiofor co-star in writer/director David Mamet's martial arts drama Redbelt. Ejiofor plays Mike Terry, a jujitsu master who co-runs a very modest martial arts studio in Los Angeles with his bossy wife, Sondra (Alice Braga). Mike demonstrates an unwavering commitment to his craft and draws a cadre of defiantly loyal pupils including Joe (Max Martini), an LAPD cop. All told, it appears that he has chosen a peaceful and conflict-free path in life. The dedicated martial


Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense

David Mamet

Aug 26, 2008


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All Critics (145) | Top Critics (40) | Fresh (94) | Rotten (46) | DVD (10)

The plotting is contrived, the supporting characters two-dimensional, and the ending slides from predictable to absurd to maudlin.

September 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Time Out | Comment (1)
Time Out
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What is memorable is the film's portrait of a man of honor in a sleazy world, possibly a metaphor for the struggle of the artist to stay honorable in a world of backbiting, betrayal and hunger for easy money.

May 9, 2008 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
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The glue that holds it together is Ejiofor's muscular performance as a man whose principles may be about to feel the brass knuckles of reality.

May 9, 2008 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
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David Mamet's take on the trendy new world of mixed martial arts is a gem not quite like anything I've seen before " a smart, absorbing, anti-Hollywood, hypermacho look at what it is to be a true martial artist and a man.

May 9, 2008 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
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Mamet's love for the sport comes through in every frame.

May 9, 2008 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
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It's neither uninteresting nor unentertaining, but the plot is as threadbare as an old carpet and Mamet's narrative contortions will leave many viewers scratching their heads.

May 9, 2008 Full Review Source: ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's always fun to watch the Mamet stock company springing a trap on an unwary victim.

August 15, 2011 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

What threatened to be David Mamet's most vainglorious misfire since perpetually casting his wife instead turned into samurai noir -an eloquently profane, profanely eloquent eulogy for the purity of martial arts discipline in the face of profit.

September 17, 2010 Full Review Source:

A Kickboxer installment that got too big for its breeches

August 26, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion

Redbelt seems like a rush job that relies too much on the quick fix. I'm very willing to suspend my disbelief, but Redbelt becomes outlandish.

February 1, 2009 Full Review Source: Fayetteville Free Weekly
Fayetteville Free Weekly

This Mametian thriller is worth watching for a terrific performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor, but it's hard to engage with the story and it loses its way in the final act.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: ViewLondon

The detail and clear devotion he has for the sport may actually have the effect of distancing the rest of audience from his film.

October 1, 2008 Full Review Source:

Redbelt, his latest, is a curious one, a movie that hints at greatness only to retreat, unpardonably, into genre convention.

September 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Independent

The Mamet rhythms are pleasingly in place: the repetition-rich dialogue, the head-butting close-ups as men go ego to ego.

September 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

Exuding inner calm, Ejiofor is great. But he's badly let down by director David Mamet, whose contrived script goes to unbelievable lengths to weaken Mike's resolve.

September 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Sun Online
Sun Online

Not prime, grade-A Mamet, but this meaty martial-arts movie offers heavyweight performances and a deliciously juicy set-up. Things get scrappy in the last act, but you'll want to see how it all unravels.

September 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

David Mamet sets him on the path to righteousness in a collection of contrivances masquerading as a meaningful plot.

September 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Sky Movies
Sky Movies

Emily Mortimer is impressive as a jittery, unlikable attorney whose impulsive actions trigger Mike's descent. But it's Ejiofor's film all the way.

September 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Ejiofor remains a supremely assured, charismatic presence, though he has his work cut out here. He is pitted against a film with a black belt in pomposity and a gold medal in preening self-regard.

September 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Guardian

The discipline is remarkable. But this constipated drama, set in a blue-collar corner of Los Angeles, imparts none of the sweat-shop magic.

September 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Times [UK]
Times [UK]

By no means a classic from David Mamet, Redbelt is authentic enough but fails to dazzle. The casting of Tim Allen is imaginative but too much of the film is underwhelming.

September 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

Not vintage Mamet - the dialogue isn't up to quotable snuff - but it still packs a decent punch thanks to Ejiofor's solid performance.

September 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Like his other films and plays, Redbelt takes place in the Mamet universe, which only sometimes resembles the world the rest of us live in.

September 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Playback:stl

Muscular filmmaking and a riveting central performance make this film worth seeing. Even if the plot itself becomes far too messy to really engage with us, the characters are edgy and enthralling.

September 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Shadows on the Wall
Shadows on the Wall

Mamet's dialogue is crisp, invigorated by supporting players (particularly Mantegna and Jay) who relish his acerbic wordplay. But for a movie that aims to do for jujitsu what 'Rocky' did for boxing, 'Redbelt' taps out before the final bell.

September 12, 2008 Full Review Source: San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco Examiner

Audience Reviews for Redbelt

A superbly crafted and supremely entertaining film. A remarkable, well-written and brilliantly performed piece. Director, David Mamet's masterpiece, he truly knows how to make a truly engaging and riveting movie. Mamet's love for the sport shows in this piece and the respect that it should be given. An impressive, intelligent, stunning, powerful, and satisfying movie. It's beyond amazing. An absorbing, thrilling, gripping and sensational thinking-man's dramatic thriller. it hits you with the intense brass-knuckles of reality. An extraordinary cast. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives an outstanding performance, he truly established himself as a star and leading man and is capable of almost any challenge. Emily Mortimer is fantastic. Tim Allen is excellent.
August 22, 2013

Super Reviewer

After the arguably awful "Spartan", writer/director David Mamet delivered this. It could be called a genre picture but if you know Mamet, you'll know he doesn't really follow conventions.
Mixed-martial-arts instructor Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has money problems. He could earn $50,000 in a competition, but honour precludes him from fighting for money. Then a series of chance encounters leaves him no choice but to step into the ring.
The film opens dramatically, introducing several of it's key characters in quick succession and manages to maintain this drama for a lenghty period. In fact, for almost the entire film. The acting is marvellous with Chiwetel Ejiofor's central, dynamic performance a real highlight. He's a fine actor, deserving of more major leading roles. As always, David Mamet's dialogue is sharp and natural, helping his characters come to life. At first, so many strands to the story are introduced, with no explanation, before eventually bringing them all cleverly together. Mamet is known for his writing skills and again they are on display here. Despite the undeniable power though, as it progresses, it starts to veer toward the formulaic side (which I suppose is difficult considering it's subject) and ties it's many strands up rather quickly, in a nice red bow (or quite literally 'belt'). It was far too neatly done and gave the feeling of being rushed, letting down an otherwise superb film.
Although flawed, it's still absorbing and one of David Mamet's better films. It's not a major demerit but I found it to be a bit short, I was enjoying it so much that I could have done with an extra half an hour. Then again, maybe there is no higher compliment than this.
August 19, 2011

Super Reviewer

A Mamet work that is not made in the rhythm of dialogue. It's a melodrama and when the movie does exposition, it's like a joke on melodramas, past and present ( -- it reminded me of the "Wally Beery wrestling picture" the studio boss wanted Barton Fink to write). But when the movie does silences and implications, disparate characters and their problems seem part of the same real world. Ejiofor is amazing and for all the power and magnetism he brings to the surface of the movie, as an avatar of honor and purity, the real pull of this story is in the undertow. This is, I think, a very sad movie. No matter what points the hero scores for authenticity and fidelity to principles, there is not enough time before the buzzer sounds. It's as if he and his old master cry that there is even such a thing as a redbelt, for their ideal will always be greater than the world they know and greater than they themselves, who are part of that world. When the hero repeats, "There is no situation that you could not escape from. There is no situation that you could not turn to your advantage," any adult knows that's not true. Not only is this credo anti-noir, it's anti-Greek tragedy. The credo becomes like a losing declaration of faith for the hero, and I know Mamet doesn't believe it. He may believe that listening to the wolves when *they* say there's no escape is to feed yourself to the wolves without a fight.
March 19, 2011

Super Reviewer

"There is no situation that you could not escape from. There is no situation that you could not turn to your advantage."

is not your typical martial arts movie, though it heavily features mixed martial arts and jujitsu. It's more about the philosophy and ideals behind martial arts, and how far one man will go to honor those ideals.

It's also a bit underwhelming. I'm a big fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor, he may be one of my favorite actors. He's perfect for the understated "quiet strength" type of roles, which is definitely the kind he has here. I really like Emily Mortimer, as well. She never fails to impress me, and should have a much higher profile that what she has.

The problem isn't with either of them or the other actors, it stems from the fact that the story and the script seem to have needed some more revisions to fully realize the ideas they were aiming for. Ejiofor, Mortimer, and the rest just don't get a lot to work with.

Characters seem underdeveloped, and the plot moves in fits and starts. Don't get me wrong, Redbelt isn't a bad film. But there's so much unrealized promise here that it leaves me feeling disappointed in some ways.

I want to give Redbelt high marks for its ambitions, but I have to give it an average score for its actual execution. I still recommend it, I just wish I could recommend it much more strongly.
March 3, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. Mike Terry: There is no use opposing a force, you might as well run with it or deflect it.
    – Submitted by Louis K (2 years ago)
View all quotes (1)

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