Redbelt (2008) David Mamet

Production Budget: $8 million
Gross: $2.3 million

Redbelt is about Mike Terry played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (you may know him as the Operative from Serenity). Mike is a Jiu Jitsu master who teaches a Dojo in California. He is a guy who very much believes in honor and the way of the fighter so he is not out for money and therefore his dojo is suffering. By chance he saves an aging action star (played by Tim Allen) from being killed in a bar fight. Soon Mike is taken in by the glitz of Hollywood and soon finds himself betrayed by Tim Allen (and really aren’t we all) and in trouble with shady characters. And it all comes down to a potential money shot at a UFC undercard match.

Okay that sounds lame and cliche but it is actually original and really well done. What I thought was unique was the character of Terry (played very well by Ejiofor). Here is a man who lives by a very honorable belief system and does not waver from his beliefs. We have many “peaceful warriors” but most of them are hypocrites. A big example would be Billy Jack. Billy Jack is a man who spouts non-stop that pacifism and non-violence is the ONLY answer yet he constantly breaks his own belief system and picks fights with people. He doesn’t practice what he preaches. In this movie, he follows his ethics, he remains honorable, and that is the REAL victory. I thought the movie would take a cheap way out in the ending and I admired the fact they went another way. Now the ending may not be…how they say…realistic. But it was very satisfying.

There is action and fight scenes and they are very good. Mamet is a wonderful screenwriter, but not very good when it comes to framing action scenes. That being said, he does an okay job behind the camera. Like I said, what I really loved were the characters and the Mamet dialog. Terry was a fascinating character and he kept me interested all the way through and I was interested in how he would get through his dilemma. Many reviewers compare this movie to old time boxing movies, but updated to UFC. I don’t quite see those comparisons yet. That doesn’t change the fact this is an interesting and exciting movie.

That was when I first reviewed the movie.  Now for the update a year later.  I really like this movie: probably a hell of a lot more than it deserves.  One of the things that really sell me on the movie is Chiwetel Ejiofor.  He is such a cool guy and he adds so much charisma to the role.  Redbelt is a genre picture, but Mamet really works to make it fascinating.  And as I said before, I really like the character of Mike Terry who is a hero who is dedicated to his honor and beliefs.  For me, this movie just all comes together and I really like it.  This is where I would call it the difference between a great movie and a personal favorite.

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