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.
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.
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.
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"
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.
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.
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?
[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]
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.