Redbelt (2008) 4/5 (4)


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Rating: The Good – 72.4
Genre: Martial Arts
Duration: 99 mins
Director: David Mamet
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tim Allen, Emily Mortimer, Alice Braga

Redbelt stands as an unusual take on a film built around martial arts. Rather than dishing out a string of unrealistic fights, David Mamet’s film is a pensive drama that follows the fortunes of a deeply principled Brazilian Jui Jitsu instructor as he struggles to keep his business afloat. Chiwetel Ejiofor quietly excels in the lead role and in truth much depended on him getting his part right. He achieves a believable balance between focus and softness which helps to set the tone for the film as a whole. Alice Braga puts in an interesting turn as his ambitious wife whose familial connection to the Jui Jitsu world is only circumspectly pointed to. Tim Allen scores well against type as a famous actor who halfheartedly attempts to pay a debt to the former after he is rescued from a bar room brawl. It is this incident which sets the story in motion but it takes its time in getting there and indeed moving beyond that point. However, the slow build-up pays off well in the end because the final showdown is breath of fresh air for those of us fed up with the highly repetitive “buffy-the-vampire” style fight sequences in which fighters merely go through the motions one high kick at a time (and the obligatory throwing of opponents across a room!). Be warned before you see it though because fans of straight beat-em-ups might be disappointed. That said, true fans of martial arts will cherish this one because while Redbelt may not be an action movie it’s every bit a martial arts movie.

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