Tuesday, 18 May 2010
Written & Directed by: David Mamet
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tim Allen, Alice Braga, Randy Couture, Joe Mantegna, Emily Mortimer, Rodrigo Santoro
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) continues its breakthrough into the mainstream and gets the serious treatment in David Mamet’s Redbelt. A sort of anti Rocky tale in the sense that the hero is doing everything in his power not to compete and resist taking part in the prize fight. Mike Terry (Ejiofor) is a Jiu-Jitsu master who runs his dojo much like a samurai: his is a pursuit of honour not personal glory, a belief he attempts to instil on his students. But as life is not only about the pursuit of honour, money, or the lack there of, rears its ugly head and Mike finds himself in increasing debt, his dojo on the line. Thrown into a world of fight promoters and movie stars after an incident at his dojo with a lawyer and a fight at a local bar, Mike attempts to work within the sport and movie worlds to make some money but without having to fight. Yet, events and those around him conspire against him meaning that the only way to pay off debts, regain honour and earn what is rightly his, is for Mike to go against his principles and fight
As much about the nobility and science of the fight as it is with showcasing MMA styled action, Redbelt is first and foremost a drama. Albeit, one set within the fight world. It’s also about people, their relationships, what they will do to one another in the name of profit and how the world of sport and movies are the most corrupt of all. Hardly revolutionary but given added bite and depth by Mamet’s trademark labyrinth like dialogue and by a hero who is so tuned into his own sense of belief he is unaware of those who are using him for their own personal gain. Mamet’s film does touch on the corruption of the sport and movie worlds but at its heart Redbelt is about the people: from Emily Mortimer’s emotionally wrecked lawyer (and possibly Mike’s only true friend), Tim Allen’s lost, jaded and ultimately manipulative movie star and to Mike’s exasperated wife (Braga) who may just be seduced by all these new corrupt people in return for a financially better life. It’s their interaction, emotion and dialogue that gives the film resonance and Mamet’s trademark human complexity.
In addition, this is a film also about MMA and perhaps the most realistically portrayed yet. The science of the fight, the honour of the fight and what it truly means to be a fighter all seen through the eyes and actions of Mike Terry. Despite the dramatic nature of the film and that many will tell you this is not a fight/action film (which, of course, it isn’t) there are still plenty of scenes displaying some impressive MMA fighting. Realistically portrayed though still slickly choreographed, the fights have a crisp authenticity to them and show Ejiofor trained hard to perfect the moves for the screen.
Along with excellent support from the likes of Alice Braga, Emily Mortimer, Joe Mantegna, Rodrigo Santoro and a cast against type Tim Allen, wonderful and rich photography from Robert Elswit, Redbelt is a satisfying human drama about the times in our lives when we all need to fight for something. The tone does vary a little too much to be wholly consistent and those who aren’t a fan of Mamet’s unique style will not be won over by this but Redbelt is perhaps one of the most human martial arts films you are likely to see