Published May 09, 2008David Mamet is probably not the first person that comes to mind when one thinks of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Hes probably not the 20th, either. Mamets whip-smart dialogue and twisting plots have typically kept him in the rep theatres rather than the mega-plexes but Redbelt could be one of his breakouts.
Set in West Los Angeles, the events of Redbelt pivot around an incident that occurs at a Jiu-Jitsu gym one dark, stormy night. Several characters connected to the gym find their lives fundamentally altered in the following days through a series of events that would remind one of Crash if Crash were not complete garbage.
Chiwetel Ejiofor does a great job leading the cast as Jiu-Jitsu instructor Mike Terry. For Terry, honour is the only code that matters, much to the chagrin of his wife and business partner. Unfortunately, Terrys way of life has found him treading water with his gym and relationships. Ejiofor manages to portray a man who is compassionate to a fault while steering clear of easy mawkishness. Rounding out the solid cast are assorted Mamet regulars, and Tim Allen, turning in a surprising performance as a grizzled veteran action star.
Redbelt delivers the exchanges one would expect from a Mamet film, with characters quickly bouncing quotable lines off each other, but in smaller doses than his previous movies. The concentration this time around is on the fighting, and to good effect. It is not overloaded with martial arts scenes but there are enough to appeal to mixed martial arts fans, including a number of faces that will be familiar to regular viewers of UFC events.
In the hands of a lesser director, Redbelt could have been a simpleminded MMA cash-in. There are a few moments that are a little Karate Kid-esque (particularly in the climax) but Redbelt is a solid movie for both drama lovers and fight fans. (Mongrel Media)