David Mamet has become one of the great filmmakers of the last few decades. His latest film, Redbelt, is no exception.
The great storyteller gives us a great heroic story both intelligent and exciting. Many of his other films (e.g. Heist, House of Games, and State and Main) involve a wonderful writerly interweaving of subplots climaxing in surprises and satisfying resolutions. One gets the sense that Mamet does much research in creating intelligent yet entertainingly dramatic dialogue. In this film, he thickens the plot until we are enervated and then quickly and movingly reinvigorates us with a rousing, classically heroical finale, probably the greatest of any fight film I have ever seen. (And I am not one for superlatives.)
Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the lead role of Mike Terry, a Brazilian jiujitsu master and instructor who finds himself in a series of trials, some chance, most caused by the greed of those around him. He remains steadfast as an honorable character despite those who conspire and exploit him. Things worsen until he is forced to compete in competition, an act which in itself is against his principles. Minutes before going into the ring, he becomes aware of the corruption of the event and once again does the â€œrightâ€ thing. This leads to a quick succession of events that leaves the heart pounding with excitement in the final struggle. The ending is expected but by no means uninteresting, a true challenge in a fight film.
The film also features Tim Allen in a refreshingly uncomedic role and a bang-up performance by Ricky Jay (who, by the way, is a sleight-of-hand expert who is in the Guinness Book of World Records for throwing a playing card 190 feet at 90 miles per hour). Additionally, actual mixed martial arts fighters Randy Couture and Enson Inoue appear in the film, as well as Brazilian jiujitsu champion Jean Jacque Machado and boxer Ray â€œBoom Boomâ€ Mancini.