Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor , Tim Allen ,John Machado
Directed By : David Mamet
Copyright ©Sony Pictures Classics 2008
REDBELT is a martial arts film which falls in between the heroic and the World of seedy fight fixing. It's also a Martial arts film which features the art of Jiujitsu ,but what's interesting here is the way it combines elements of Japanese Jujitsu and Brazilian Jiujitsu .
It's also partly unique because how many films can you think of feature the art of Jujitsu/Judo ,martial art films have always concentrated on the more showy styles of Kung Fu,Karate,and Taekwondo to give a adrenalin fueled rush to the proceedings.
Also which makes this film unusual is it's director and writer is David Mamet ,a director not associated with martial art films or action films for that matter.
Now to call Redbelt a action film may be slightly of as it is about the integrity of the art as much as the art it self.
The story though simple has many twists and turns which will get you thinking. The story evolves around one Mike Terry who runs a Jiujitsu club , the club has a average amount of students and to be honest does not earn Mike a great deal of Money, if not for his Brazilian wife Sondra who runs a more successful dress making business ,though that just ends up supporting Mikes Jiujitsu club.
Things start to go a bit pear shaped for Mike when a young woman crashes in to his car and enters the Dojo all flustered and nervous, in a bid to calm her down one of Mikes students ,a Police Officer by the name of Joe attempts to take her coat in act of chivalry ,thing is Joe has left his gun on a ledge ,the young woman in panic grabs the gun and it fires , shattering Mike's window in the process.
Iterating that he's a Police Officer ,he agrees to believe it never happened and goes home leaving Mike and his wife to calm down the woman and come up with a excuse for the window.
Thing is telling the Insurance people that a strong wind wind broke the window ,deems it a act of God ,which They are Not covered for. Sandra tells him to get a loan for the window from her brother Bruno a night club owner and fight promoter .
Going to the club (which is also a place where Joe moonlights for extra cash) . When he finds out that Joe has not been around and quit due to being paid Mike's agenda changes and confronts Bruno about not paying Joe. Bruno Tells him it's not his business ,and says if you want to help his friend he should fight in the upcoming tournament.
Mike leaves ,not asking about the money he needs , on his way out a famous actor has walked in to the bar without his bodyguards and entourage, sitting down for a drink the actor (Chet Frank played by Tim Allen) . But when Chet gets in to a bar room brawl , it gets out of hand and Mike steps in to take out the bad assess who wanna now kill Chet. After the fight ,the Police that have been called watch It on the CCTV, to confirm that it was self defense, while Chet gets his bearings after being being beaten and Mike tends his wound after after getting Knifed.
The next day Sondra is giving Mike what for about not asking for the money to repair the window. A knock at the door and a parcel arrives for Mike. A invite to dinner and when he opens the parcel ,a $20,000 dollar awaits him..
Now your thinking ,to yourself now, sell it your money worries are over ,window repaired and hey presto. Nooooo! Next we see Mike at the Police Station where he gives Joe his Black Belt and the watch so he may pay his debts off after not getting paid by Bruno.
Returning from the Station ,the window is being repaired ,Mike is dumbfounded as to who ordered this and hows he gonna pay. To his surprise out of the dojo appears Laura (the young woman who shot the window) She tells him it's the least she could do ,she's a attorney and she needs to set things straight .
OK , Mike and Sondra go to dinner at Chet's and go down well with high rollers, Sondra gets into businesses discussions about Dresses with Chet's wife and Lucy Weiss ( Jerry Weiss's wife ,Jerry is Chet's Right hand Man) Chet talks about fighting and films with Mike. Before leaving Mike discloses one of his training methods ,a theory behind using three marbles to in a bowl (two white ,one Black) how one student would draw a marble and if it was Black he would be handicapped by being Blindfolded or having his arm or arms tied up.
The next day Mike spends some time on set of Chet's new film ,he meets a old friend and discusses training methods and military training with Chet, Chet tells him he's going to make Mike a producer of the movie.
When back home ,he and Sondra seem to have landed on their feet with Sondra in Business with Chet's wife and Mike now a movie producer,Mike fax's over his training methods and facts about Jiujitsu. Chet.
Now our lucky couple have prior engagements and Mike needs cover for the class ,Sondra suggests Joe take it ,when Joe arrives Joe agrees and says don't worry ,then he tells Mike he was suspended for having a Hooky $20.000 dollar watch, Joe tried to pawn it and it came up stolen .
Mike now is perplexed and at the arranged dinner date ,Chet fails to turn up and when Mike tells Jerry about it he says he must find out about this and make a call , of he goes never to return. Mike goes home to discover that his wife has ordered $30'000 dollars worth of material for her Business deal with Chet's wife only to discover all the phone numbers given by the Chet's are false or disconnected . What makes things worse is when Mike finds out that Sondra has paid for the material by taking out a loan from a loan shark for two weeks.
Visiting the Loan Shark to reason with him Mike witnesses on TV a promotion for the upcoming fight , it discloses how the fighters will be handicapped by picking one of three marbles form a bowl ,get the black one and your handicapped.
Next we see Mike and Laura at the promoters offices ,laying claim that the idea is his and they have stolen it , trying for a instant pay off the organizers say prove it ,you have no copyright. After the two leave and say they will see them in court they are confronted by the incident where Laura nearly killed officer Joe and then say that to hide the incident Mike gave Joe a stolen $20.000 dollar watch. ,it gets even worse when of hearing of this Joe kills himself.
Feeling responsible for Joe's wife , Mike decides to fight on the under card in the competition, he finds put the Martial arts legend the Professor ( Dan Inosanto) will be giving the winner his Red Belt as a prize of honour.
Also the Japanese contingent is offering a Belt that has come from the Emperor ( a National Treasure) is to be relinquished if they lose ,valued at a cool Million.
But after the first fight takes place and Mike is called up to fight he discovers while waiting in the wings that the fight is fixed as he discovers the marble handler is a magician of slight of hand and that the Black marble fighter is pre -chosen.
Confronting the fight arrangers Bruno and Ricardo Silva they own up and say yeah so, it's the way it's done to . Upset that they are dishonoring the Martial arts ,doing it in the presence of The Professor and doing it using his training methods ,Mike walks.
But as Mike leaves his Bushido Honour gets the better of him , he storms back in asking to speak to Mr.Flynn ( Randy Couture) a fight presenter , as the organizers try and stop him a battle ensues as Mike declares he's putting a stop to the proceedings and he's going to the ring. As the security try and stop him he dispatches each one ,making his way to the ring ,as he enters the arena he is confronted by Ricardo Silva (John Machado) .
Now the fight begins, as Mike and Ricardo go head to toe in what can only be described as Jiu-jitsu heaven ,witness to the event is Mr,Flynn who gets the cameras to pick up the action ,televised and shown around the arena the crowd get a display of Jiujitsu where honour is at stake, in the end Mike prevails by displaying a escape from a neck-lock by doing the Bruce Lee wall climb .
Entering the ring , Mike is met by The Professor who hands him his RED BELT.
So there you go , though the film contains many plot twists ,and some I have not included in the above synopsis as to give you some excitement . The film has had a mixed reception ,but as a film that captures the Bushido spirit it succeeds in Bucket loads party due to the convincing role of Terry by Chiwetel Ejiofor. His portrayal of the instructor who's only goal is help those in need of his teachings ,whether they be Police officers, woman,children or who ever ,his goal is help people have a chance to protect themselves and at the same time achieve a peace within themselves.
It's this that drives the film along with some powerful lines delivered by Ejiofor that in-still the confidence that can be gained by taking your training to the next level ,
In words of the Character ,''There is Nothing you can Not overcome''
It probably helps that David Mamet himself has a Purple Belt in Jiujitsu ,so his own passion for the art is evident within the story. So even though some things are not well explained ,like why at the end in the Arena ,Terry's wife Sondra is seen sitting alongside Chet Frank and entourage ( didn't they just get screwed by the same people) .
Also the teachings of Bushido did not get through to Terry's newest Black Belt, Joe. After all his teachings the best the guy could do is to pop himself in the head. It would have been better if Joe had gotten revenge for the evil doings done to Terry and himself, and then if he wanted to top himself ,Hari Kiri would have been fitting having fulfilled his quest.
I know it's a modern day set film,but if you live by Bushido ,then surly a selfless act of suicide does not fit in with your beliefs. So all it does is say that Joe was not ready for the Black Belt or Terry's actions in getting the art of Bushido across to his students has not been successful,even though he re-soundly lives by the code.
I liked REDBELT a lot because of it's central characters way of convincing you ,that he is the essence of Bushido. So with out Ejiofor would it have been as good ?,well never know, but if you have any thing to do with the arts or even train in Jiu-jitsu then this film is a must even with the obvious flaws it attempts to cover up with many plot twists.
Score out of Ten = 8
|Directed by||David Mamet|
|Produced by||Chrisann Verges|
|Written by||David Mamet|
|Starring||Chiwetel Ejiofor |
|Editing by||Barbara Tulliver|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
|Release date(s)||May 9, 2008|
|Running time||100 minutes|
|Country||United States |