Redbelt Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ May 15, 2008
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.
Super Reviewer
August 18, 2011
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.
Super Reviewer
March 19, 2011
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.
Super Reviewer
June 10, 2010
"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.
Super Reviewer
½ April 9, 2009
I'm wondering what if director David Mamet remade The Karate Kid? Well, this drama-action movie is as close as the master wordsmith is going to get - not so much wax on-wax off, as wax lyrical. Redbelt shares thematic ground with Mamet's sorely underrated Spartan: both are examinations and celebrations of men out of time, whose codes don't mesh with the harsh realities of the modern world. Standing out in a cracking cast, Chiwetel Ejiofor is electric as a man being slowly driven to breaking point.
Super Reviewer
½ January 7, 2008
Mamet makes a film and nimble and graceful as the art form at it's center.
Super Reviewer
½ March 30, 2009
Thematically impressive and powerfully acted. It's interesting to watch the actors David Mamet assembles and see how well they handle his unique, mannered dialogue. Chiwetel Ejiofor is great, and I've really started to take notice of him - anyone who goes from drag queen to martial artist to insurgency leader without losing an ounce of credibility has some definite acting clout. Alice Braga is also a surprising standout here, with a commanding voice that deftly maneuvers lots of tricky dialogue. It is a shame that the movie completely loses interest in her by the final twenty minutes. Not everyone fares perfectly; Tim Allen is depthless and Emily Mortimer gets lost in her character, giving a surprisingly washed-out performance.

Unlike most, I like the ending. It's a nifty little attack on capitalism and exploitation and the people who are aware of them, but placed in a position of utter powerlessness to reform the systems. Virtuosos of what was once an art form paraded around as a selling point. Redbelt would seem to make an attack on commercialized martial arts, but in casting two UFC personalities, was this too weighed down by promises to influential financiers? The ending is different, though not completely removed, from the movie's initial dissertations on honor and principle, and it takes an admirable stance on Mike Terry's unflinching asceticism. Redbelt is not ignorant to the real world, but it understands the power of integrity and that there are still people who hold it as an important value.

All that aside, though, I did find the film somewhat inert. It took me a day to conjure up anything to say about it. Perhaps it was a baseline disinterest in the material, but Redbelt just didn't resonate with me personally. I recommend it, though with a certain caution: don't come here looking for too many fight scenes or over-the-top screeds about honor.
Super Reviewer
½ November 7, 2008
A solid, non formulaic martial-arts movie that is more focused on an internal moral dilemma than a physical slugfest. Ejiofor is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors, his poise is tough to beat, and his silent beast of a performance here is remarkable. Allen is also a fine fit as the celebrity. The score deserves an Oscar, extremely well implemented. Not everything works at the end, but most of it does, making this a solid recommendation.
Super Reviewer
October 30, 2008
David Mamet offers up a deep bit of martial arts drama, only to be damaged by the fact that he is David Mamet. This leads to some convoluted plot involving deception and twists which are unnecessary in exploration of the main character or the films themes. Simpler could have been better and so could some probing into the supporting cast. Especially Tim Allen who shows he IS an actor with a wonderfully understated performance. The film is hard to get into at first as you struggle to see where it's coming from. Once all is revealed though it becomes easier to take in, though the ending after the final fight was all a bit gag inducing for myself.
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2008
"There is no situation you cannot escape from. There is no situation that you cannot turn to your advantage"

David Mamet's newest effort was a nice suprise. I knew nothing about it but when I studied a bit about his filmography I found this one.

Don't expect that it's all about martial arts and non-stop fighting on the screen. It's mostly a drama with a lot of the philosophy behind the martial arts. "Redbelt" doesn't have a complex story but in the end it fits the pieces in a good way.

"Redbelt" needs multiple viewings to really understand what it's all about. Running on less than 100 minutes, it's beautifully paced but so much good stuff is put into it that you want to see it again. The actors performances are also brilliant.

"Everything in life, the money's in the rematch"

In my opinion, "Redbelt" is a very realistic film about the martial arts world. It's smart and it leaves the viewer to decide what it is all about.

"It's alright. There's no one here but the fighters"
Super Reviewer
½ September 8, 2008
Extremely dialogue driven, not much action nor martial arts, more of an intellectual movie about pride and honor, stuff like that that, but the fighting in the movie is very effective. This movie was not marketed well or described well, its difficult to outline a plot for this film. My favorite part about the film is Chiwetel Ejiofor's acting, he did a great job that shows potential stardom. Tim Allen dropping f-bombs is a suprise, I laughed everytime he said it because I thought of either Home Improvement or The Santa Clause when he used profanity.
Super Reviewer
June 15, 2008
Supposed martial arts thriller is actually a character study of a man who lives a life based on honor and rejects the corrupting influence of money. Director David Mamet masterfully juggles multiple characters and storylines during the first hour in an intricately woven story. Unfortunately, the film unravels in the last half hour amid unanswered story questions and loose ends. By the final moment, with respect to Peggy Lee, you'll be asking yourself, "Is that all there is?"
Super Reviewer
September 4, 2008
Ejiofor is a fucking badass! Usually whenever good actors get a hold of Mamet's screenplays they can really do something with it and this is a prime example. This guy is like the black John C. Reilly, he's always dependable and always gives every performance his all. The ending is a little rushed though and I wish they would have gone more into the character than the con. But you have to respect any film that takes a guy like Tim Allen and makes him bearable even if it is for a only a couple of scenes. Nice cinematography by Elswit.
Super Reviewer
January 29, 2008
Chet Frank: So you teach people how to fight?
Mike Terry: I teach people how to prevail

This is a martial arts movie, with blends of the respect and honor motifs found in a samurai film, written and directed by David Mamet, who basically infuses his style into this film creating a sort of noir-like martial arts movie. This means it will have the stylized Mamet dialog, a twisty con-game plot, as well as some action.

Mike Terry: You want the officer to walk you home? Huh? It's rough out there.
Snowflake: Well after he gets his black belt he can walk me to the car. That'll make me feel secure.
Mike Terry: How's the belt going to make you feel secure?
Snowflake: I know his fucking pants aren't going to fall down.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, an actor I really enjoy on screen, is given the lead role of Mike Terry, a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master working out of a small self-defense studio in LA. He and his wife are getting by, but have relations with various folk around town, including a bouncer/cop, a loan shark, and some fight promoters.

Mike gets involved in saving a famous movie star (played by a very good Tim Allen) from a bad bar brawl and gets in his good graces. Mike is offered some consultant help on a film, and things seem to be looking up.

Marty Brown: Everything in life, the money's in the rematch.

Of course, being a Mamet con game, Mike is essentially one of the only good people around, and after having the rug pulled from under him, he has to get back his honor.

The story of the film works very well and is interesting to see unfold. There are a number of little side-plots as well, which further aid the story, but the film only stumbles a bit towards the end, when Mamet's dialog stops and the fighting commences.

That being said, Mamet does stick with realism, for the most part in terms of display, and shoots a very good looking portrayal of this style of martial arts.

Many of the Mamet regulars are here, including Joe Mantegna, David Paymer, Ricky Jay, and Mamet's wife Rebecca Pidgeon. Allen, as I mentioned, fits in very well here, and Ejiofor is great for this type of leading man. His character is an idealist, in favor of his honor system and combines this well with the rhythms of Mamet's dialog.

The end does pile on all the reveals of what has gone down, combined with a sort of speedy pay off combining the reveal and how to deal with it, but I enjoyed it because it looks good and because I love Mamet's dialog, which lays the characters attitude on first in a sort of code understood between them, letting the audience catch up.

Mike Terry: There is no situation you could not escape from. You know the escape.
Super Reviewer
August 27, 2008
For anyone looking for Hollywood to make a good Mixed Martial Arts film (Never Back Down was nothing but a bad Karate Kid adaptation), let me just say this is not the film you are looking for. If you're looking for hardcore fights and awesome action, you'll be hugely disappointed. This is a David Mamet film through and through, that just happens to be partially set in the world of MMA. It's a drama, it's slow, it's talky, it's (intentionally) confusing, and it's unconventional. Does that make it a bad film? No.
The story, like most Mamet works, is almost noirish. It's got conspiracies, twists, and dark moments, yet its focus remains truly on the main character. The ending, which some find confusing, makes complete sense to me and truly fits the story and gives the title its meaning.
Chiwetol Ejiofor's performance alone makes it worth watching. He is one of the most underrated actors working today, and his work here confirms that yet again.
I would recommend this film to anyone, but just know what it is. If you go in expecting a movie about fighting, you'll just feel betrayed and misled.
Super Reviewer
July 23, 2008
This was the first time I've been knee-deep in a David Mamet film. To be honest, I've never even heard of the guy before "Redbelt". So, there I was, deciding what film to watch in a cold ordinary day when I saw the poster. Chiwetel Ejiofor in a film about mixed martial arts. Sounds badass to me so before you can even say Jack Robinson, I was already inside the theater munching my popcorn in the balcony. There were a few people inside the theater so I had no problems with crowd control. Watching "The Dark Knight" inside a theater full of ignorant fools who jeer at the screen for no reason and they do it like they're the only ones inside really pissed me off. So, this was a breath of fresh air. Me inside a theater with zero crowd visibility and a tub of popcorn in my lap while watching Chiwetel Ejiofor kick ass, now that's life.

So anyhoo. It wasn't what I expected. My initial expectations is that its gonna be pumped and loaded with man-aggression that puts a bodybuilder in steroids to shame. David Mamet brought his MMA flick out of "action-town" and he gave it a heart. So, the story is basically about Mike Terry (Ejiofor, a very impressive performance), a black belt Jiu Jitsu trainer who is knee-deep financially and owes a lot of people money. He avoids a prize-fighting career because he feels like its not up to his fighting code and principles, that it'll make him weak so he avoided it as much as he can. But if the needs arise, you can't help but take the last resort you've been avoiding your whole life. So, Mike enters a competition and soon discovers the corrupted ways of the prize-fighting circuit. He learns that the game is rigged so he takes matters into his own hands in order to preserve the purity of the martial art sport.
Redbelt will inspire a lot of people that's for sure. One man stood up against the corrupt ways of people and shows us that all is not that bad. That is, I think, the very essence of the film. You have to stand up to what is wrong because if you won't, then who will?

Super Reviewer
½ June 8, 2008
If Mamet is so lauded for his realistic dialogue and portrayal of human behavior, why is his speech so littered with unnecessary interruptions (if Mike and the cop would have just LISTENED to Laura when she first walked in, talking about hitting Mike's car, instead of blah-blah-blah "dry off get her coat," she wouldn't have freaked out when the cop touched her) and repetitions ("wheel goes round wheel goes round" "she's running late she's running late" "are you are you ARE YOU"), and unbelievable reactions (a cop who leaves his gun lying around gets mad when a woman unknowingly uses it to defend herself; a woman who has presumably never fired a gun stumbles upon one and immediately pulls the trigger; aforementioned cop kills himself just cuz he "dishonored" his master; nobody stops a stray fight in a championship arena; jujitsu master automatically hands over his red belt to a complete stranger just cuz he fought valiantly)? This is what I like to call "hyper-realistic babble." Mamet heightens his dialogue and situations to a point that's NOT realistic, but seems so serendipitous, so badass, so contrived that it can't possibly be untrue, that it SEEMS realistic after all.
Super Reviewer
May 9, 2008
What a wasted opportunity. Here is a film that could have presented an indepth look at the world of jiu jitsu and MMA. The character of Mike Terry, played wonderfully by Chiwetel Ejiofor is an interesting one, but his story takes too many implausible turns and ends in an outcome that to me didn't make a lick of sense. I love David Mamet's dialogue, but it wasn't enough to make me recommend this.
Super Reviewer
½ May 13, 2008
[font=Century Gothic]"Redbelt" starts with Laura(Emily Mortimer), an attorney, having a truly awful night. First while searching for a pharmacy, she sideswipes a car. Then, she goes into a martial arts studio, and somehow accidentally manages to fire the gun of a prize student and police officer, Joe(Max Martini), shattering the front window. Mike Terry(Chiwetel Ejiofor), who owns the studio, has to choose between the rent and repairing the window, so broke is he. While looking into business at a club run by his in-laws, Mike saves movie star Chet Frank(Tim Allen) from a royal beatdown which earns him his eternal gratitude...[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"Redbelt" is a disappointingly sloppy movie from writer-director David Mamet who should definitely know better. Despite the host of name faces that populate the movie(most from the David Mamet Repertory Company), this is not the ensemble movie it should have been. There is only one three-dimensional character and that is Mike Terry(Which is ironic because the best scenes are the ones between Ejiofor and Mortimer.), the last good man in Los Angeles, who does not approve of the televised fighting matches being promoted.(According to Mamet, Los Angeles has gotten so bad that a person cannot smoke anywhere.) And one cannot help but wonder if Terry is Mamet's surrogate and how this movie might apply to Mamet's recent work in television which was about the military, like the movie that Chet Frank is working on.(Compromise is sometimes necessary, especially in television.) Overall, "Redbelt" is nothing more than a personal statement that while not ending with Capracorn, still manages to grandstand like there is no tomorrow. [/font]
Super Reviewer
½ August 18, 2010
The man known for writing the masterful Death of a F-cking Salesman (the Pulitzer Prize-winning American classic play Glengarry Glen Ross) now takes on G-Darn Bloodsport with rousing results. As with every succeeding film and genre - hard-hitting drama (The Spanish Prisoner) to acid-tongued comedy (State and Main) to slick caper (Heist), writer/director David Mamet covers the material as if this particular bent was his specialty--and always with an edginess and the best dialogue this side of Sunset Boulevard. His direction has not always been spot-on in terms of shot choice and lighting, but Redbelt proves to be a great step forward. And as always, the cast is as first-rate as the words they speak.

In the latest from David Mamet, an amazingly profound R-rated drama, an LA Jiu-jitsu teacher (Ejiofor) is forced into consulting for a movie star (Allen) and prize-fighting to pay the bills.

Mamet makes elaborate cons seem effortless. And ?elaborate cons? is not just a reference to the serpentine double-crossing performed in the storyline but also the twisty Mamet semantics. Not a single line of dialogue is wasted?especially in the mouths of such scintillating characters. The tale, that of an uncompromising man in a world of forced compromise, results in possibly the most satisfying ending ever filmed involving a professional fighting match?and yes, that includes Rocky and The Karate Kid.

Bottom line: Mamet effing rocks.
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