Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 20
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

JUST GIVE ME A LITTLE MORE TIME, I’LL GET YOU YOUR MONEY: Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is trying to negotiate for more time to raise the money to repay the loan shark and thereby avoid the dire consequences that will inevitably follow if he doesn’t repay the loan soon enough.

Redbelt: David Mamet Directs Disappointing Martial Arts Mystery

Kam Williams

Perhaps because his directorial debut, House of Games (1987), was one of the best psychological thrillers ever made, this reviewer continues to have high expectations from David Mamet over twenty years later. Consequently, a mediocre offering like Redbelt turns out to be a major disappointment.

Even though the picture is Mamet’s first foray into the martial arts genre, the script has the trademark features by which the Pulitzer Prize winning screenwriter’s work can be easily recognized. For example, the movie is filled with street-savvy con artists who deliver their raw dialogues staccato-style, frequently repeating their lines for emphasis. Among the actors are familiar faces of some actors who have appeared in earlier Mamet films, including his wife Rebecca Pidgeon, Joe Mantegna, Ricky Jay, and David Paymer.

As usual, the plot embroils the players in a complicated caper that requires considerable effort from the viewers to unravel. Unfortunately, in this movie the elaborate story has so many layers that the audience is likely to tire of following the action well before the plot’s premise has been established.

The story revolves around Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a cash-strapped sensei of a jiu-jitsu dojo located in downtown Los Angeles. He’s a purist who has thus far staunchly resisted any temptation to fight on the mixed martial arts circuit, preferring to rely instead on financial help from his Brazilian wife’s (Alice Braga) fabric business to keep his fledgling studio afloat.

A disturbing chain of events begins when a distraught attorney (Emily Mortimer) shows up at the dojo unexpectedly. Mike’s most promising student, an off-duty police officer named Joe (Max Martini), inadvertently invades the female attorney’s personal space, not realizing that she’s a recovering rape victim. Panicking, the woman grabs the officer’s gun, which was lying on a counter, and fires a round which shatters the dojos expensive plate glass window. Already behind in the rent, Mike now has this added expense to worry about.

Later that day, at a nearby bar, he helps out a stranger who has been punched by someone in the bar. The grateful victim happens to be a famous movie star (Tim Allen) who, out of gratitude, befriends Mike, invites him to his mansion for dinner and offers to introduce Mike to some of the movers and shakers in the show business world.

However, Mike’s money problems continue to increase, and he finds himself so deeply indebted to loan sharks that he breaks his code of honor and enters the mixed martial boxing ring in order to win enough prize money to pay off his debts.

The movie is a confusing and convoluted cross between Rocky and The Karate Kid. Redbelt is a picture that’s too smart for its own good given the simple message it is delivering.

In good conscience I can’t recommend a movie with a plot so convoluted that I had a hard time following it myself.

Fair (1 star). Rated R for profanity, violence, and drug use. Running time: 99 minutes. Studio: Sony Pictures Classics.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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