Redbelt is the best film about fighting since Karate Kid, and will likely reign supreme for a number of rounds as the top movie for the viral sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). I’m sorry I missed it in theaters, but I was glad I caught it out on DVD this week.
David Mamet, known for his plot twists and turns for the characters and audience alike, executes a memorable fighting drama with layers of commercial greed, betrayal, and the code of a samurai.
At its balanced center is the compelling performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mike Terry, a gut punch of believable fighting skills and intense emotional depth. In a world of corruption and deceit (well, it’s Los Angeles), his jiu jitsu training academy represents a microcosm of loyalty and discipline built on ancient, traditional principles. His quiet, almost graceful demeanor disappears when he’s forced to dispatch an attacker, unleashing with such precision you’d swear he was a professional fighter.
There’s tension with Mike’s frantic wife over the failing business, something he dismisses in order to remain honorable. Through a series of coincidences, we’re introduced to a drug addict lawyer trying to put her life back together (the talented Emily Mortimer), an honest cop achieving black belt status (Max Martini), a Hollywood actor (Tim Allen), and a cast of corrupt con men making a fixed sport out of his beloved martial art. Fans of the UFC will recognize a familiar face behind the popularity of the sport, legendary fighter Randy Couture.