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Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Redbelt is a martial arts film written and directed by David Mamet.
When a respected jujitsu master (Chiwetel Ejiofor) eschews a lucrative prizefighting career in favor of opening a self-defense dojo, it appears that he has chosen a peaceful path in life. The dedicated martial artist's fate takes an unanticipated turn, however, when he is manipulated into participating in ultimate fighting championships by a group of unscrupulous actors and fight promoters.
Later, as the master is being relentlessly beaten in a dirty street fight, he connects with a high-profile action star (Tim Allen) with serious marital problems. Realizing that the only way to regain his honor is to step into the ring, the jujitsu master reluctantly prepares for the fight of his life.
Mamet, that awesome master of dialogue, usually makes movies that revolve around a con. Usually every character has a part in it and everyone is a suspect, well, except for the main character of course. In most Mamet films we get the pleasure of following around the main character as they try to figure things and then become surprised, just as they are, when they do unravel the mystery. In Redbelt however, we are just as lost as Ejiofor is and when everything is finally revealed in the end he knows what their talking about but we are still stuck in the what the hell is going on stage.
I am sad to report that Redbelt just may be Mamet's least interesting movie ever. However, that doesn't make it bad. Mamet has everything set up to make one of his great signature movies. We have a lot of the same actors that have been in his previous films delivering the Mamet style dialogue that he is known for. We have the con that we must try to figure out along with Ejiofor in who is a who and what is what. This is all here, except for the fact that it all happens very uneventfully and the con itself just may be one of the most ridiculous cons ever.
The movie revolves around martial arts but the fight scenes are very sloppy and the direction doesn't help. Mamet shows nothing here of his great directing. His dialogue also doesn't have any power to it. Usually, you can tell a Mamet film a mile away just by hearing the dialogue but Jennifer Lopez could have written Redbelt and I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.
Now it seems like this review is headed for a bad rating but it is not. I have been giving Redbelt a mostly negative review so far but I guess I am just giving it a bad review based on the criteria for what a Mamet film should be. If I forget for a second that it was written and directed by Mamet, I come to realize that it is a decent movie. It features cinematography by the great Robert Elswit, has some of my very favorite actors which is pretty much every actor in the movie. It gives me a little hope that Allen will stop making retarded movies aimed for kids and turn to more dramatic fare. The first half of the movie is actually really good but its the second half that ruins it for everyone. That's when all is revealed in its cheesy glory and the very slow moving competition scenes at the end have you looking at the running time to see when it will end.
I hope that Mamet was just having one of his bad days with Redbelt and that with his next film he will get back on track. Let's just hope that it won't be 4 years again until we find out if will have our awesome Mamet back or the one who came up with the equivalent of a better version of Rollerball.
Redbelt: 6 out of 10
The DVD features a behind-the-scenes featurette and fighter profiles.
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