Theatrical Review: Redbelt

Mike Terry is a mixed martial arts instructor specializing in Jui Jitsu. Terry is a very honorable man, using his martial arts and the instruction of to prevail in life, even though he finds that that’s not quite enough when the bills come due. And as Terry and his wife, struggle to make their ends meet, seemingly random events are starting to happen that look like they could be the answers to all of Terry’s problems. Except of course they’re not, and this ends up putting Terry in a position where he must compromise his values.

Redbelt is the latest movie from writer/director David Mamet, and I’ve got to say, I’m a huge Mamet fan, and with Redbelt he’s kind of making a throwback sort of film, like the type of movie that you might have in the day when say a boxer must find himself in a situation that in order to prevail he might have to compromise himself (or, in movie terms, In the movie Barton Fink, the title character finds himself in Hollywood having to write a Wallace Beery wrestling movie- Redbelt is probably the kind of movie that Fink would aspire to) and personally, I think this is one of the better films that I’ve seen yet this year.

The subject of mixed martial arts doesn’t exactly seem like the sort of thing that I’d ever really expect Mamet to delve into, and yet he pulls it off pretty nicely. There’s plenty of examples here of the fighting going on, and Mamet never gets theatrical about it, there’s no flashy moves or stylish edits, it’s all handled pretty matter-of-fact.

Chiwetol Ejifor plays Mike Terry and this is his film, hands down. For awhile now, Ejifor has demonstrated that he’s certainly one of the more versatile supporting talents in Hollywood today in such films as Serenity, Inside Man, Talk To Me and Children of Men, but in Redbelt, he gets the opportunity to carry the movie himself and he’s pretty much in every single scene of the film and does a fine job here, having a whole lot of heart in his performance, but discipline as well. He’s got a great supporting cast here including Mamet regulars like Joe Mantegna and Ricky Jay, but without a doubt the most unusual bit of casting is comic actor Tim Allen as an action movie star like Bruce Willis, who finds himself crossing paths with Terry. Allen’s really good doing this bit of stretching for himself and I just hope he manages to do some more of this over time. My only complaint with him is just that his part is pretty small in the big picture, but he still gets the job done.

Right as we’re in the midst of all of the big summer blockbusters, it’s certainly nice to see that a small movie like Redbelt can come out there and deliver the goods. Oh sure, it’s still going to get lost in the shuffle, but then expectations are a lot lower as well. Still though, this is a quality drama, and another great movie in David Mamet’s filmography. Highly recommended…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

19. May 2008 by Darren Goodhart
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