Redbelt Movie Review

R, 99 min, 2008

Director: David Mamet
Writer: David Mamet
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tim Allen, Emily Mortimer

Writer-director David Mamet is known for three things: profane tough-guy dialogue, labyrinthine plots involving cons within cons, and off-beat casting. All three converge in perhaps the least likely of any milieu he’s yet explored withRedbelt, an absorbing take on the world of pay-per-view television and mixed martial arts.

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Mike Terry, a ju-jitsu instructor with ties to the Los Angeles Police Department, as well as a history in the military. He runs Southside Ju-Jitsu with his Brazilian fashion designer wife (Alice Braga).

Fate literally crashes into his life one night when a distraught lawyer (the lovely Emily Mortimer) sideswipes his parked car, and then puts a bullet through his Academy’s front window (long story). Needing money, Mike approaches his fight promoter brother-in-law (Rodrigo Santoro), but gets distracted by a bar fight involving action movie star Chet Frank (Tim Allen).

Coming to Chet’s defense, Mike makes a hell of a contact (Braga is immediately taken in by Chet’s wife, played by the perpetually lovely Mrs. Mamet, Rebecca Pidgeon), and the plot kicks into high gear. Soon, he’s in up to his neck with a loan shark (David Paymer), a Hollywood agent (Joe Mantegna), a crooked fight promoter (the always wonderful Ricky Jay), and so on.

Mamet loves magicians (Ricky Jay is a professional magician that Mamet turned into an actor!), and he loves their craft, so the true nature of what’s going on could be obvious, or it could totally blindside you. It’s revealed in about the final third of the film, with a scintilla of Mamet’s custom brilliance.

Okay, so Redbelt might not be a great Mamet movie (see The Spanish PrisonerHouse of Games, and State and Main), but it’s still a worthy effort. Only one quibble: It ends abruptly and not quite at the proper spot.


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