Here is a movie that I knew very little about when I entered the theater. I knew it was a David Mamet film, which automatically gives one hope. I also knew that it involved MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighting. I had the impression that it was going to be a more, much more, intelligent version of Never Back Down, from earlier this year.
What I did not know could probably fill a book. For example, I had no idea that Chiwetel Ejiofor was the lead, nor did I know that Tim Allen had a role, much less one that was non-comedic in nature. Both of those facts proved to be pleasant surprises.
Redbelt is an interesting film. It is not an action film despite the MMA influences, it is not a comedy despite the presence of Allen, and it is not about plot despite the existence of one that could be accused of being overly complex. What it is about is honor and being true to oneself above all else. It is about living by a code that is larger than yourself. It is more a character study than anything else. For this, I thank David Mamet for daring to deliver a film with such a wonderful central character, one who refuses to bend to outside influences, sticking to his beliefs and his honor, allowing them to guide him through.
This is decidedly not your typical Hollywood drama. Redbelt does not overly concern itself with all of the plot threads and side stories. Yes, if a bit more attention had been paid in that area, the film would decidedly be stronger had everything tied together a little better. However, the film succeeds on the strength of the central performance. The character is compelling and will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
At the center of the story is Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a jiu jitsu instructor who runs a dojo in a run down area. As a teacher, Mike is skilled, well respected, and highly successful. However, as a business, he is barely breaking even. This matters not to Mike, as he is happy, but the same cannot be said for his wife, Sondra (Alice Braga), who is constantly concerned about their future without steady income.
Now, despite this not being about the plot, there is a lot of plot to cover. To cover the plot and all that is involved would be to rob you of the discoveries to be had, specifically the manner in which Mike is affected and how all around him are connected in a tragic chain of events that test Mike's resolve and will to stand by his beliefs and retain his honor.