JT Film Review

103 – Redbelt (2008)

Redbelt REVIEW

2/5 stars

Director – David Mamet

Cast – Chiwetel Ejiofor, Emily Mortimer, Tim Allen, Alice Braga


Wow. Mamet dropped the ball on this one.

Redbelt is one of those martial movies which preaches respect, a code of honor, and peaceful solutions, and then climaxes with the main character beating the shit out of someone. Except in this movie after Ejiofor (playing Mike Terry, a Jiu Jitsu black belt) beats the shit out of his opponent (offstage, in the aisle to the arena, in a fight he started) the grand master of Jui Jitsu comes over to him and awards him with a red belt on the spot. This left me… well, perplexed. Actually, I yelled out “What the hell.” Thankfully I saw it at home on DVD, not in a theater.

Actually, come to think of it I bought it for a dollar. So thank God I didn’t spend much money on it.

To get to this point (where Mike beats up several security guards to start a fight and win the heart of a grandmaster), we have to sit through an hour and a half of coincidence, manipulation, and contrivance. The plot is a twisted mess of coincidences that all add up (allegedly) to Mike’s inner turmoil. Mamet (who wrote and directed the movie) throws in everything against Mike; he is faced with a desperate wife, debts piling up, a dishonest and greedy attorney, a corporation stealing Mike’s tournament handicap idea, a friend and pupil committing suicide (seemingly just because the plot required him to leave a bitchy widow)… it just doesn’t stop. We then spend most of the movie waiting for something, anything, to go somewhere.

Nothing does, until it is suggested to Mike that he can end all of his problems by entering a huge Mixed Martial Arts tournament. He does so. That’s the story pretty much. I’d say sweet and simple, but it wasn’t really sweet…

The script, written by such a respected writer as David Mamet, comes across as hackneyed and boring. It turns out that Mamet had been training in Jiu Jitsu for several years before making the movie, and had been suggesting to friends they should do a “Jiu Jitsu movie” for ages. This comes across as a bit egotistical, and would explain the lackluster nature of the whole thing.


Redbelt comes across as not much more than a vanity project. It is overly complicated and full of contrived plot turns that are reminiscent of soap operas. Chiwetel Ejiofor is probably the only person to come out of this unscathed. His characterization is practically the only thing that keeps the movie going. Some of the other actors are just awful. Tim Allen skated through his role, and Ricky Jay sounds like a high school drama student. This is the great Mamet???



“Redbelt” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



August 16, 2010 - Posted by | 2 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , ,


  1. I’ve always heard that Mamet is one of the best writers out there — which is his best script?

    Comment by Joachim Boaz | August 20, 2010 | Reply

    • I don’t know, as this was actually my first experience with any of his works. He is thought of as such a titan of his craft that I must admit to being a bit confused. But then again, we can hardly expect every filmmaker to be on top of their game all of the time.

      Comment by jamesturpin | August 20, 2010 | Reply

  2. Yeah, I’m confused as well — I looked on imdb and virtually none of his films have above a 7.0…. (if that counts for anything)

    Comment by Joachim Boaz | August 20, 2010 | Reply

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