In director David Mamet's riveting character study, jujitsu master Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) -- who's in a financial bind -- considers entering the arena to compete for cash … which goes against his philosophy and his integrity. With his dojo foundering, a pistol mishap puts Mike further in debt, leaving him at the mercy of gangland creeps, including a shady fight promoter (Ricky Jay). Tim Allen and David Paymer also star.
The following review contains spoilers for Redbelt (and probably It's a Wonderful Life, but who hasn't seen that?).
For me, Redbelt had the same message that It's a Wonderful Life had. For all those positive glass is half full people it's that "as long as you're a good person who does the right thing and stays true to your beliefs then you'll be rewarded in the end." It's my personal belief that people who like IAWL are people who haven't actually experienced what it's like to try your hardest and be the best person you can be and still have really crappy things happen to you. To quote Phoebe from Friends "They shouldn't have called it "It's a Wonderful Life," they should have called it 'It's a sucky life and just when you think it can't suck any more it does.'"
Redbelt is about a jujitsu teacher who has a floundering dojo downtown. He's poor, but happy. Through a chain of events life goes from good, to bad, to worse. He eventually loses everything and he's forced to fight in a shady tournament to pay off his wife's loan shark. In the end his life is still crappy, but like Clarence getting his wings at the end of IAWL Mike gets a red belt from a master and we're supposed to believe that it's all worth it. Mike still has no money, his wife leaves him and sells him out, and his good friend and star pupil is still dead. I'm pretty sure the glass is still half empty on this one.
Besides Redbelt being incredibly depressing (if I haven't reiterated that enough here), the dialogue was terrible. Yes, I realize that repeating the same sentence 3 or 4 times in a row is Mamet's signature it's also amazingly painful to sit through when it is delivered poorly. When it doesn't flow it's like "why...are they saying the same thing over and over again?" I actually hated Heist for this very reason (I know, blasphemy right?). Despite all my complaints here I actually liked the movie. More so than my martial arts loving husband who thought the action was weak and the story pointless and boring. I get it, it's a thinking man's martial art movie, but really how many bro's that love MMA and UFC are even going to get that? I get it, but I'm far to cynical to think that it's even worth it in the end.
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