Monday, May 12, 2008
Review Of "Redbelt"
(D.R.) Nathan and Rick over at TDA TRAINING posted a copy of this movie trailer earlier, but I found a good review which is posted below. Mamet's writing is legendary, and now we find out that he is also a ranked Jujitsu student himself. I wonder how Mamet's usual fans, whom I suspect are not fight-game-types, will react to this type of screenplay? It really looks great, here's the review:
'Redbelt' an oddly intriguing Mamet mix
It's like 'Rocky' with literate patter, same end
By Christy Lemire, AP movie critic
Friday, May 9, 2008
It sounds like a jarring combination at first, as if the two just don't go together — until you learn that Mamet himself is a purple belt in jujitsu. Clearly, this is a subject that's dear to his heart.
Then you realize while watching "Redbelt" that many tenets of the sport — the ideas of control, manipulation and one-upmanship — jibe perfectly with themes the playwright, director and screenwriter has explored for decades in some of his best-known works, such as the plays "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Speed-the-Plow."
And so "Redbelt" makes sense in its own weird way: a mix of sports-flick cliches and Mamet's patented rat-a-tat writing. It's "Rocky," it's "The Karate Kid" — only with more stylized, rhythmic dialogue.
Several Mamet regulars show up (Ricky Jay, Joe Mantegna, David Paymer and Mamet's wife, Rebecca Pidgeon), which does put us in somewhat comfortable territory. But it's Chiwetel Ejiofor ("Dirty Pretty Things"), the film's star, who commands our attention. As the unflappably moral, placid jujitsu instructor Mike Terry, Ejiofor can be both attractive and warm, fierce and intimidating.
A series of strangely intertwined events forces Mike into the ring, a place he's never wanted to be, to fight for $50,000. Among the players pushing him into battle are his sexpot wife (Alice Braga), a jittery lawyer (Emily Mortimer), an aging movie star (Tim Allen), a producer (Mantegna), a loan shark (Paymer) and a shady fight promoter (Jay).
It goes without saying in Mamet Land that none of these people can be trusted.
But Mike truly practices what he preaches, handling every obstacle and challenge that thrusts itself into his path with the same calm he urges his students to achieve.
"Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. You know the escape," he'll repeat when someone looks particularly defeated during his class. Here's a bit of advice that he takes, which comes from his wife, Sondra, and gets him further into trouble: "Let the wheel come around."
Mike and Sondra are already struggling to maintain their West Los Angeles studio at a time when the more violent Ultimate Fighting and mixed martial arts are in vogue. A shattered front window, the result of an accidental gunshot, puts them further into debt. Then a chance encounter at a bar with Allen's Chet Frank seems to turn their financial troubles around.
In no time, Mike is visiting Chet on the set and talking about receiving a producing credit, and Sondra, a fabric designer, is working with Chet's wife, Zena (Pidgeon) on a clothing line. (Allen is surprisingly good in an uncharacteristically cynical, haggard role.)
Could all this happen so quickly? And could it all disappear just as fast? Probably not. But something has to get Mike into the ring for The Big Showdown. Even though the championship match doesn't play out exactly the way you've seen it before, it still adheres to the same hackneyed conventions. And the final moment, which was probably intended to be poignant, instead feels laughable.
"Redbelt" is also overly familiar in its serious, "Crash"-like collision of disparate Los Angeles denizens, tied together by fate.
It is novel, though, that Mamet didn't subject us to the obligatory training montage. Perhaps that's because he figured it would be one less opportunity to have his characters talk.