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Redbelt (Mamet, 2008) — Chiwetel Ejiofor's jiu-jitsu movie

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Redbelt (Mamet, 2008) — Chiwetel Ejiofor's jiu-jitsu movie

Old 05-10-08, 10:47 PM
  #26  
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I'm glad people are liking this, because the time away from my intial viewing the better I like it. 2008 has been off to a slow start and this is easily in my top 10 thus far, nearly a 1/2 the way through.

I loved the fight at the end. Mike never uses an offensive attack, they are always defensive attacks. Sweet.
Old 05-10-08, 11:52 PM
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Great movie and it didn't disappoint. Will post full thoughts later.
Old 05-11-08, 07:31 PM
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I actually had a lot of problems with this film. Chiwetel Ejiofor was great, but there were so many plot points started and then just went nowhere (cop's wife, clothing line, legal thing, lawyer lady etc...)

The movie just sort of ends without explaining anything. I'm not a person that needs my films spoon fed to me, but this movie just kind of threw me for a loop.
Old 05-12-08, 04:35 AM
  #29  
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Redbelt: Some Thoughts (Spoilers Ahead)

Spoiler:
The following paragraphs contain SPOILERS in regards to not only
Redbelt, but also previous Mamet features (i.e., Heist and Spartan).
Discretion is advised.


SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS


Author's Note: Do not mistake these paragraphs for an actual essay.
To be sure, the following consists of words written quickly within a
relatively short period of time. I apologize in advance for any and
all errors in terms of the content of my rather flighty analysis.


"I'm ending the charade." -- Mike Terry in Redbelt


With the release of Redbelt, Mamet's core theme of identity has
finally come full circle. From Lindsay Crouse's character in House of
Games to Joe Mantegna's character in Homicide, Mamet's protagonists
have always wrestled with their identities. Who are their true
selves? Are their current ideals and allegiances just and proper? To
be sure, Mamet has now completed his "honor code" trilogy, which
consists of three films that feature one word titles (Heist, Spartan,
and Redbelt -- leave it to wordsmith Mamet to make the two word term
"red belt" into one word). This trilogy features three protagonists
who are trying to live their lives by a particular set of morals and
ethics. Specifically, the principles of the protagonists in question
are put to the test by various machinations in the narrative, and the
protagonists must choose to either remain true to their ideals or
acquiesce to the demands of the ever-changing modern world around
them. In Heist (2001), Joe is an old school thief whose tactics and
methods are put to the test by a new breed of (immoral) criminal
(i.e., Sam Rockwell’s character et al). In Spartan (2004), Scott is a
Special Ops officer whose ethics are put to the test by government
officials who mean to use his skills for political gain. Lastly, in
Redbelt, Mike is a martial arts instructor whose allegiance to the way
of the warrior is put to the test by those who mean to use his skills
and knowledge for financial gain.


With Redbelt, Mamet finally allows one of his protagonists to
break through his self-crafted glass ceiling of fakery and deception.
This is in sharp contrast to many of his works, which occasionally
end on a note of uncertainty. For example, the last shot of The
Spanish Prisoner makes one wonder whether the con was actually put to
rest or whether it will continue long after the screen has faded to
black. While the protagonists of the first two entries in the above
trilogy do in fact challenge Mamet's charade, they fail to stop the
charade once and for all by the end of the film.* In Heist, the
charade continues in a pickup truck moving in the opposite direction
of Joe's vehicle. In Spartan, the charade continues on a slew of
television sets in front of Scott. Moreover, these two protagonists
are punished for challenging the charade in question by continuing to
adhere to their codes of honor. Both protagonists are weaker and
lonelier for having challenged the dubiousness of their surroundings.
Specifically, Joe loses his significant other and Scott loses his
homeland (both lose one or more confidants to death). While Mamet
empathizes with them on this point (esp. Scott in Spartan), he
nevertheless keeps them well below the glass ceiling of his cinematic
chicanery.


Interestingly enough, Mike is the first Mamet protagonist to be
rewarded for adhering to his code of honor.** Many Mamet regulars who
act in Redbelt are baffled by Mike's insistence on gumming up the
works of Mamet's chicanery: "What kind of stupid motherfucker pawns a
watch he got from Chet Frank." Indeed, they are dumbfounded as to why
Mike refuses to go along with the ebb and flow of Mamet's deceptions.
Nevertheless, Mike wishes to break through Mamet's facades and,
needless to say, Mamet makes him work hard for his reward. With
Redbelt, Mamet is able to live through his protagonist, who's purity
surely only exists in the movies (Mamet's own Redbelt deal with Sony
Pictures Classics requires that he make Joan of Bark: The Dog that
Saved France as his next feature). During the climax, Mamet cuts away
to key characters in the film, many of whom are portrayed by Mamet
regulars who have partaken the cons of his previous films (from Ricky
Jay to Rebecca Pidgeon, there are at least 8 Mamet regulars that
appear in the film. Moreover, the film is dedicated to Mamet regular
and close friend Christopher Kaldor, who recently passed away). It is
as if these Mamet regulars are witnessing history -- the first Mamet
protagonist to completely cut through the foliage of fakery once and for all.


In the end, the character of Mike shatters Mamet’s charade in
Redbelt, and he uses the bard's own words against him in order to do
so by constantly uttering the following mantra: "There is no situation
you cannot escape from. You know the escape." Actually, Mike's
mantra would perhaps read better as follows: "There is no situation
you cannot escape from [with your dignity still intact]. You know the
escape." Indeed. Way to go, Mike.


Cheers,
hulka


*Sure, the protagonists of the first two entries do indeed accomplish
the objective given to them by the narrative. In Heist, Joe gets the
gold; in Spartan, Scott rescues the girl. Still, the completion of
these narrative objectives does not negate the fact that both
characters continue to live in a world in which Mamet's deceptions are
still in play at the end of the film.


**Sure, one could argue that Mike's rewards at the end of the picture
are in fact dubious. Indeed, he loses two confidants along way, and
his constant reiteration that belts are nothing more than a mechanism
by which to keep one's pants up may downplay his triumph during the
film's finale. Still, the ending is one of triumph for what his
rewards symbolize. In other words, the rewards in question are a
tangible embodiment of his accomplishment of mind, body, and spirit in
terms of his adherence to his honor code of morals and ethics.
Moreover, his rewards are two-fold for a reason: The first belt is an
acknowledgement by one's peers, the second belt is an acknowledgement
by one's mentor. The former is for show, the latter is much more
meaningful.


P.S. This author’s suspicions of the poster imagery were indeed
confirmed upon viewing the film. Specifically, Mamet's poster for the
film (assuming he did in fact have input) is truly great. Any poster
that gives away the ending of a film must surely want to the viewer to
pay attention to other things aside from outcome of the climax. As
the old adage goes, the play is the thing.


P.P.S. It is great to see Mamet give viewers his version of an old
school fight picture. From his version of the police procedural
(Homicide) to his variation of the missing girl movie (Spartan), Mamet
continues to take picture types and add his array of spices to the
mix. Well played, sir.
Old 05-12-08, 09:00 AM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by Pillowhead
I actually had a lot of problems with this film. Chiwetel Ejiofor was great, but there were so many plot points started and then just went nowhere (cop's wife, clothing line, legal thing, lawyer lady etc...)

The movie just sort of ends without explaining anything. I'm not a person that needs my films spoon fed to me, but this movie just kind of threw me for a loop.
I think things being unexplained is a large part of the film. There's no subtitles when foreign languages are spoken, and there's several scenes where we don't hear the dialogue. The most pivotal one of these comes near the end, right before Mike decides to "end the charade": he talks to Laura Black (Emily Mortimer) and she slaps him at the end of the conversation.

The cop's wife was addressed with Mike looking at the bills later on: he did not dismiss her, and I doubt his internal code would allow him to forget about her.

The clothing line was a secondary ploy against Mike and his wife. The Bakers put them in a situation where she couldn't escape and she eventually did by turning in the evidence of the shooting. That's why we see her in the fight venue talking with the Bakers again and her brother says that she made the right choice (money over being poor).

I agree that the legal thing and the lawyer's storyline were never really resolved. At least I couldn't see clues as to what would've happened.

The more I think about this movie the more I like it.
Old 05-12-08, 11:07 AM
  #31  
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I went and saw this movie again yesterday. I had to.
SPOILER!

Spoiler:

I loved the scene that The Bus mentioned, where Laura slaps Mike after an unknown conversation. At that point, it makes you wonder. Did she slap him because he gave up on all that money (remember, she was trying to help him get money from the guys who stole his training method, and probably felt responsible when they brought up the incident with the window). Or did she slap him because she saw that he was not able to find the right escape? Obviously, we can assume it's the latter, because he goes back in and proclaims "I'm ending the charade".

In regard to the legal thing, my interpretation is that Mike decided to drop the case. I agree that there's no outcome that was suggested, but my own guess is that Mike felt it was more honorable to allow the fight promoters to use his idea (thus, maybe influencing others to use it for the same reasons he did), as opposed to trying to fight in court, where the defendants would bring up the window, Joe's suicide, etc. It would have been too much for Joe's wife to handle.

About the lawyer. At the beginning, she was obviously jittery. Even after she came back and had the window fixed in the middle of the day, she was jittery and we saw her take a couple pills at the table. But, afterwards, when talking about the legal issues with the fight promoters, she was well-composed. My understanding was that, with Mike's help, she really did get over her 'problem'. Or at least, she was actively dealing with it in a healthy way.

The only thing that didn't make sense to me was that Mike's wife was sitting with Chet Frank at the fight. But, as mentioned, she told the lawyers about the window. I'm sure she had a conversation with Jerry where he said, "you owe $30,000 to a loan shark. Give up the evidence about the incident with the lawyer, and we'll buy your fabric." Seeing that as her only escape, she took it.


Anyway, I love this movie. The DVD/BD release can't come soon enough!
Old 05-13-08, 12:44 PM
  #32  
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This was the Karate Kid for adults. I enjoyed this movie immensely.
Old 06-17-08, 09:28 PM
  #33  
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According to the "DVD Talk New-To-DVD Theatrical Release Calendar & Discussion Thread", this is due for an August 26th DVD release. No word of Blu-ray. If this was still playing in a theatre near me, I'd go see it again.
Old 07-13-08, 07:09 PM
  #34  
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Entertaining flick and the build up of inevitable dread was great, actually most of it was pretty depressing. Agreed the marbles wouldn't fly in any kind of officiated fight like that and some of the plot elements were too out there (a lot of happenstance, and the movie does flat out fall apart near the ending), but whatever, it was a good watch.

Originally Posted by Pillowhead
I actually had a lot of problems with this film. Chiwetel Ejiofor was great, but there were so many plot points started and then just went nowhere (cop's wife, clothing line, legal thing, lawyer lady etc...)

The movie just sort of ends without explaining anything. I'm not a person that needs my films spoon fed to me, but this movie just kind of threw me for a loop.
I prefer movies that play out how this one did. You know exactly how much the character knows, and to Mamet's biggest credit, you know the exact moment the characters figure they've been fucked over (which happens to be about the same time the viewer realizes it, even if they foresaw it), the cop's wife, clothing line, legal thing, etc; were all explained to the extent they needed to be explained. I didn't buy the cop thing but it did make the character realization
Spoiler:
that what he has been dedicating his life to has been a bit of a sham
that much more depressing. I think the movie could have been better in a few places, namely:

Spoiler:
Didn't think the suicide fit and didn't buy the "He brought respect back to the sport.", getting the belt, nor the passing down of the redbelt to him nor him fighting his way back to the ring (the security guards and what have you). Parts felt plausible, other parts just felt too out there. Final fight wasn't particularly great, but I was actually expecting that.


The movie was apparently inspired by Ed O'Neill's participation in the sport, and it was good seeing him in a cameo. Chiwetel Ejiofor, as usual, has excellent screen presence and is a damn good actor. I'd give it a 3 outta 4, as despite my reservations, it really is a well made movie.

The Karate Kid for adults by way of noir traditions.

Last edited by RichC2; 07-13-08 at 07:59 PM.
Old 07-15-08, 12:28 PM
  #35  
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I saw this twice and really enjoyed it. It was a movie made for true martial artists and was still entertaining and interesting enough for those who aren't. Maybe it will not satisfy action movie fans because that's not what it is about. I think this is the direction that Bruce Lee wanted to go if he had lived on. I remember his saying something about how he wanted to make a movie that told what martial arts was really about as much as entertain the viewer. Mamet did that by being able to show both and I don't even think he is a martial artist. It was also good to see two of Bruce Lee's students do cameos in the film.
Old 09-19-08, 09:39 PM
  #36  
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I just rented this film - awesome flick! Mamet is truely a unique great writer/director....
Old 09-19-08, 10:40 PM
  #37  
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I saw it a week ago and really liked it... very well done with great performances.
Old 09-19-08, 11:00 PM
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I picked this one up off the shelf last week and put it back because I had a bad feeling it was going to suck but it looks like I now have a movie to watch for tomorrow.
Old 09-19-08, 11:29 PM
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I just can not get into a Mamet film. There's always something that feels too setup, preposterous, or too coincidental. Having said that, this was enjoyable.
Old 09-20-08, 10:42 PM
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I really, really, liked this film. "Karate kid for adults" is a little out there though. I mean it's cool for people to reach out and compare it to something else but.....that's strecthing it a bit.

The highlight in this film for me was that there was absolutely nothing glorius about it at all....it was simple and straight forward and kept me interested and caring about the main character.

Also - it's been a very long time since a film of this type threw me for a loop with it's flow and I'm mainly talking about how the ending went down - great stuff.

Awesome opening as well - so glad someone bumped this thread as I wouldn't have rented it.

Old 09-20-08, 10:52 PM
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i just saw "State and Main" to complete my Mamet watched library. very good work! he is so unique and talented, his stuff is truly like any other on screen.
Old 09-22-08, 10:32 PM
  #42  
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Originally Posted by Rival11
I really, really, liked this film. "Karate kid for adults" is a little out there though. I mean it's cool for people to reach out and compare it to something else but.....that's strecthing it a bit.

The highlight in this film for me was that there was absolutely nothing glorius about it at all....it was simple and straight forward and kept me interested and caring about the main character.

Also - it's been a very long time since a film of this type threw me for a loop with it's flow and I'm mainly talking about how the ending went down - great stuff.

Awesome opening as well - so glad someone bumped this thread as I wouldn't have rented it.



I thought it was a great film. The ending at first seemed abrupt but it seemed to fit perfectly. I wish I had seen it in the theatre.
Old 10-07-08, 03:04 AM
  #43  
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Great movie. I love the Mamet dialogue. Everything plays out so smoothly.

It had me immensely entertained.

= J
Old 12-13-08, 11:40 PM
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I didn't like it at all. I'm not against brainy movies and I love the world of martial arts, but this movie did nothing for me, even though I was highly anticipating it.

I think Fearless is exactly this type of movie but does it a lot better (that's one of my most favorite movies).

Last edited by GatorDeb; 12-13-08 at 11:57 PM.
Old 03-18-09, 03:03 PM
  #45  
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Re: Redbelt (Mamet, 2008) — Chiwetel Ejiofor's jiu-jitsu movie

Good that others found enjoyment in this, but I thought it was embarrassingly bad. I can't believe Boom Boom Mancini, Couture, Trigg and other great athletes allowed themselves to be attached to this movie. There was a good movie there...but I thought it was just so poorly crafted and executed.
Old 03-18-09, 03:11 PM
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Re: Redbelt (Mamet, 2008) — Chiwetel Ejiofor's jiu-jitsu movie

Originally Posted by thelwig14
Good that others found enjoyment in this, but I thought it was embarrassingly bad. I can't believe Boom Boom Mancini, Couture, Trigg and other great athletes allowed themselves to be attached to this movie. There was a good movie there...but I thought it was just so poorly crafted and executed.
You can't believe that Couture would attach himself to a bad movie? I would call Redbelt his smartest movie career move. He's been in Crade 2 the Grave, No Rules, Big Stan, and The Scorpion King 2.
Old 03-18-09, 03:17 PM
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Re: Redbelt (Mamet, 2008) — Chiwetel Ejiofor's jiu-jitsu movie

Originally Posted by toddly6666
You can't believe that Couture would attach himself to a bad movie? I would call Redbelt his smartest movie career move. He's been in Crade 2 the Grave, No Rules, Big Stan, and The Scorpion King 2.
Haven't seen any of those (on purpose). But I see no problem with him being able to do his thing with Stallone. He didn't seem out of place and because Hollywood is a bunch of midgets...Couture looks HUGE on screen.
Old 03-18-09, 03:21 PM
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Re: Redbelt (Mamet, 2008) — Chiwetel Ejiofor's jiu-jitsu movie

This was a really good film.

A lot going on, an intelligent movie.

Mamet... a real talent.
Old 03-18-09, 03:23 PM
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Re: Redbelt (Mamet, 2008) — Chiwetel Ejiofor's jiu-jitsu movie

Originally Posted by Dr Mabuse
This was a really good film.

A lot going on, an intelligent movie.

Mamet... a real talent.

I guess I am just not big enough of a Mamet fan. Loved Spartan, but to me, Redbelt had the intelligence of a Seagal movie.
Old 03-18-09, 05:31 PM
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Re: Redbelt (Mamet, 2008) — Chiwetel Ejiofor's jiu-jitsu movie

Rebelt, yet another 2008 film better than Slumdog Millionaire.

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