Sunday, September 14, 2008

Redbelt (2008)

David Mamet's fight picture.

Mamet movies I've seen (written and/or directed), as just now revealed to me by IMDB:
The Winslow Boy
Ronin (I had no idea!)
Wag the Dog
The Edge (!)
Glengarry Glen Ross
The Untouchables
The Verdict

So, as it turns out, I've liked most of the movies of his I've seen. In fact, all of the above rank at least in my "hey that was pretty ok" level. Ronin I love.

Redbelt ranks similarly to Ronin, helped by it's main character's adherence to a samurai-like code. Mike Terry is an honorable man running a small jui-jutsu dojo in LA. He has a dedicated student, a police officer, in whom he has instilled the same sense of honor. His wife runs a textile/clothing design business and helps him stay afloat. He is well-known and respected within the martial arts world, but has never found great financial success, and refuses to compete. A series of fortuitous and tragic events and people test his code of honor to the furthest degree.

The movie is carried equally by its writing and acting. It's a fight movie, and you figure the quiet master will have to fight in the end, but Mamet's screenplay takes interesting routes to get there. The time spent with Mike Terry (the truly great Chiwetel Ejiofor) makes the choices and conclusions feeled earned rather than obvious. Chiwetel is supported by a uniformly excellent cast, including Tim Allen in a serious role, Emily Mortimer, Joe "Fat Tony" Mantegna, and Max Martini (who does a lot with a relatively small amount of screen time as the cop student).

I read some reviews that complained about the ending and some of the story's loose ends not being tied up, but I think each of those elements was consistent with the way the story was told and needn't have been elaborated on. (One example: it is hinted that Terry has a military past and has overcome an alcohol addiction, but, while never elaborated on, we see the sort of man it has made Terry, and these hints do strengthen the character without needing to be spelled out.)

As far as the visuals go, the beginning really stood out to me. Very moody noir-ish stuff in the rain. The rest of the cinematography doesn't draw attention to itself (to me, anyway), but the direction allows many lingering shots that afforded some great introspective work from Chiwetel.

I recommend it.

No comments: