Redbelt Review
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Set in the world of mixed martial arts fighting, writer/director David Mamet’s latest, Redbelt, is all about honor. It’s one of the most important things that Jiu-jitsu instructor Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) teaches his students at the Southside Jiu-jitsu Academy—and it’s the thing that keeps him from competing professionally.

But, one night, when high-strung lawyer Laura Black (Emily Mortimer) stumbles into the academy, everything begins to change for Mike and his wife, Sondra (Alice Braga). Emily breaks a window, forcing Mike to head out in search of a loan to pay for the repairs. Before he can get the loan, though, he ends up breaking up a bar fight and defending movie star Chet Frank (Tim Allen). Suddenly, Mike finds himself entangled in both the filmmaking business and the world of competitive fighting.

David Mamet is pretty well known for his dialogue. He likes to make films that are filled with conversation—and, despite its action-film kind of premise, Redbelt is no exception. So don’t go into Redbelt expecting a thrilling, extreme fighting kind of movie—because while it does have its share of fighting, the fight scenes are few and far between, and they’re not nearly as thrilling (or as brutal) as you might expect.

True to Mamet’s signature style, Redbelt is a chatty movie. In some movies, that can be a good thing—because all those conversations help the audience get to know the characters and their circumstances. Unfortunately, though, in Redbelt, those conversations don’t really seem to move the story along. And while you’ll feel like you need to pay close attention—thinking that, in all those conversations, Mamet is dropping important hints that will help to bring the story together in the end—that’s not really the case. Much of it is just talk, with a tiny bit of character development thrown in. And, to make matters worse, many of the lines are poorly delivered.

The greatest problem with Redbelt, though, is that while all those characters are trying to connect to each other, the movie fails to connect to its audience. While Ejiofor is as engaging as ever as Mike, I still found myself struggling to care about his character and his story. Perhaps part of the problem is that there’s a lot going on in this movie—but, in the end, not much of it really matters. There are just a lot of different characters, each with his or her own plans and agendas. Some of it feels forced, and some of it doesn’t make a lot of sense. And then all of those stories come together to build up to the final scene, which really isn’t all that exciting.

For a movie about mixed martial arts fighting, Redbelt is surprisingly short on action and excitement. And while the story is an interesting one, it’s just not interesting enough—or powerful enough—to make it worth seeing.

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