Walking the Walk
Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) teaches jujitsu in Los Angeles but as a man who believes in the purity of the martial art and is opposed to fighting competitions he is struggling to make ends meet. Things are compounded by his Brazilian wife Sondra (Alice Braga) who not only nags him over their finances but her family are fight promoters. When one night Terry comes to the aid of movie star Chet Frank (Tim Allen) when someone tries to bottle him in a bar it seems their luck has changed as not only does Chet want Mike to consult on his latest movie but Sondra gets on with his wife. But just as quickly as things seem to be going well they turn bad as they find themselves saddled with a debt, Terry's ideas when it comes to martial arts are stolen and it seems that maybe his only way out is to enter the ring and go against his principals.
I am kind of impressed by "Redbelt" but am also kind of at a loss by it at the same time. You see "Redbelt" is kind of indefinable as here we have this story about a man of principal who won't fight; he did his fighting in the army and now believes in the purity of jujitsu. But whilst we have this storyline playing out which sees him on the cusp of going against his principals there is a million and one other things going on. We have a woman who enters his academy in a mess and ends up accidentally shooting the window out, their is a cop who won't bring disgrace on the place, the actor and his lawyer who are interested in Mike's ideas, his pushy wife, her fighting family, a magician in a bar. Now all this comes together to create a multi layered drama but it is almost all over the place yet in a controlled way.
This aspect of being hard to define also comes from the fact that writer and director David Mamet brings in prominent actors in minor roles, as such you have Jennifer Grey in a minor role of a wife of a lawyer. It kind of throws you when you have star names in roles which don't have any real purpose and if the intention was to confuse you with your own expectations it works.
In truth "Redbelt" works very well because you are never really sure how this movie will play out as we watch Mike's principals tested. But you are fascinated by Terry as a man who seems to be almost monk like in his controlled nature, never letting the situation stress him and comfortable in who he is. It is credit to Chiwetel Ejiofor for making the character work in an engaging yet mysterious way.
What this all boils down to is that "Redbelt" is curiously entertaining, fascinating and constantly keeping you on your toes as you are never entirely sure where the story and the multitude of subplots will lead.