Tuesday, May 13, 2008
There's something very detached and methodical about Redbelt that somehow manages to feel very long despite a running time of less than an hour and forty minutes. David Mamet, director of the superb Spartan with Val Kilmer, here directs a story of jiu jitsu gym leader whose principles are tested by all the corruption around him, elements of a legal thriller and a revenge flick are in play as well. In some ways the film's biggest problem is that the entire story is the effective of one event, an accidental discharge of a gun breaking a window in Ejiofor's gym, that is so poorly constructed and actualized that the whole project loses credibility.
Unsurprisingly the film's strongest aspect is the lead performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor. Throughout his career Ejiofor has consistently been a bright spot in films of a variety of styles and genres, despite frequently holding undersized roles. Children of Men, Serenity, American Gangster, Talk to Me, Inside Man and even shlock like Four Brothers have shown his skill. Here, present in nearly every scene, Ejiofor is superb. His character, who so easily could have become Mr. Miyagi, is believably pricipled and highly compelling. The rest of the film's acting is solid if unspectacular, of note is Emily Mortimer who is quite good as a lawyer with some issues (unfortunately she is the principle aspect of the aforementioned ill-conceived scene). Much to my shock the best supporting player here may actually be Tim Allen. Playing a privileged movie star, Allen brings a lot of life to his scenes; his verbal reparte with Ejiofor is surprisingly compelling.
The film's action scenes are at times short and brutally effective yet the longer fight scenes, especially the film's climactic battle, are overly drawn out and poorly constructed. Despite the strong lead performance, Redbelt sort of fell flat for me on the whole, however, and I have trouble particularly recommending it.
Overall Score: 5/10