Thursday, October 9, 2008


I love David Mamet's style of directing. He has given us great films: "Glengarry Glen Ross," "Heist," "House of Games," and "The Spanish Prisoner." But in 2008 he seems to be way out of his element. "Redbelt" is more of a misguided vision than a miscalculation. It has some promise as a film, but it doesn't know how to show it, tangling us up in meaningless subplots, providing us with way too many characters, clogging our minds, eyes, and ears with boatloads of information, 75%-85% of it totally useless. Well, I'll try to explain it. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mike Terry, a jiu-jitsu trainer (and apparently, master) whose zen-inspired offerings reminded me of Wes Studi as the Sphinx in "Mystery Men" giving out his cliches. As for support, there's a love interest that comes early on in the form of Emily Mortimer, good actress, who is faced with a challenge: play a part way out of her element. She actually doesn't rise to that challenge, and she's not very good as Laura Black, an attorney, who, when being asked if she wants her coat to be taken off by one of Mike's students (Max Martini, who happens to be a cop), she fires the student's gun and shatters the window. She starts the crap that is making it's towards Mike. She now could be arrested for this and Mike could be indicted as an assailant. As a result of this, Martini keeps mum (illegally) for Mike's sake. Then, Mike goes to the club where Martini is bouncer, and as a result, we are introduced to more characters: Chet Frank (Tim Allen), Hollywood star who eventually means nothing to the plot because one of the resulting plots bowls over, some guy who I can't remember the name of who can change dice (and more importantly, anything) from black to white, the brother of this prize contender whose a promoter also, and, in his worst performance in a long time, Mamet favorite Ricky Jay, who may have purposely made his acting bad for all I know, because here, he is really bad. I mean really bad. He walks right through his lines and doesn't care whether or not he's even mediocre. He's not trying, and, like a lot of other actors and actresses in this film, is way, way, way out of his element. Well, there's a fight between Chet Frank and some unimportant dude and guess what? Mike Terry has to break it up. If I haven't mentioned it already, all the fight scenes in this movie are pretty bad. They really don't work. Anyways, Mike does and Chet invites him over for dinner. In this scene, we get only a couple of glimpses of Rebecca Pidgeon, who might as well not have been even credited. Well, Mike's wife (Alice Braga) and Pidgeon as Chet's wife apparently make up some scheme that eventually pays off, but it really doesn't matter. So the scene is meaningless. Then, a little later on, after a couple of pointless scenes where Mike is working on Chet's TV show that apparently is called "Desert Storm," we see the get-rich object of desire: a system of stones, 2 white, and 1 black, where, if you draw the black stone, you get a handicap. I, as the viewer, had no idea this was Exhibit A; I thought clearly that it was Exhibit B or C. But flash-forward to the ending and, guess what, I was wrong. Anyways, Mike's wife screws him over as she takes out a $30,000 personal loan from a loan shark (David Paymer). Then, Mike must fight. He decides to fight, he pulls out, then wants to fight again, and then takes a guy down and gets the redbelt. On the way we find out that Exhibit B or C is Exhibit A, but really, Exhibit A is your attention span. Exhibit B is David Mamet, selling a supposedly good film on his great status. Exhibit C is this movie, as it deserves only to be Exhibit C. Why? Because Mamet needs to edit more, better, and re-shoot the movie. He needs to add on a few more scenes, a point, and present a film not only for jiu-jitsu insiders. C-

Redbelt has some language, and some violence.

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