You can only say so much about a sport where the objective is to beat the absolute crap out of the other person.
When respected jujitsu master Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) eschews a lucrative prize fighting career in favour of opening a self-defence dojo, it appears that he has chosen a peaceful path in life. The dedicated martial artist’s fate takes an unanticipated turn, however, when he is manipulated into participating in ultimate fighting championships by a group of unscrupulous actors and fight promoters. Mike is way in over his head and tries to find whatever it is that he can do to bring back his old life that he knew and loved before it all went to shite.
It may sound pretty strange, but this martial arts film is written and directed by David Mamet. Yes, Glengarry Glen Ross-David Mamet. It may seem like a weird-fit to try on and get used to, but much to my surprise, as I’m pretty sure everybody else’s as well, but Mamet actually practices jiujitsu in real-life and considers it a nice hobby of his, when he isn’t writing out characters that say “fuck” a lot. But don’t worry, people, this more of a Mamet film than it is a carbon-copy of Never Back Down, but don’t be surprised if you can’t tell a total difference between the two.
Mamet’s dialogue in this flick is, once again, very well-written. This time, instead of being just another pile of snappy one-liners that Mamet just continues to toss at the audience, the dialogue here is more natural than you would expect from this dude and it works in it’s approach to this story. This isn’t your non-stop, kick-ass martial arts movie. Instead, it’s actually more character-based and has a story that may draw you in a lot more than the actual fight sequences themselves. And although that may turn people off expecting a bunch of karate chops and take-downs left and right, for me, I wasn’t bothered at all. In fact, it kept me more involved with what was going on because there should always be more back-story to any extreme sport, especially one like martial arts.
But even when the fight scenes do come onto the screen, they actually work and bring a lot of energy to this film mainly because Mamet is able to get so up-front and personal with each tussle. There’s not many fights (maybe about 3 or 4 in this hour, 34-minute movie) but whenever they came on, I liked it and I think it’s obvious that Mamet just enjoys the art of ultimate fighting. This really isn’t the type of film you just got forced to do and it’s apparent that Mamet wanted to do this film and his curiosity and attention to detail, pays off here. People do say “fuck”, a lot too, but not like you’d expect them to and it’s not all about the cursing that makes this movie work which is what I actually liked for a nice change-of-pace.
However, as good as the script was, I couldn’t help but think he tacked on way too much here with this simple story. The main story itself is pretty much about this guy who can kick anybody’s ass, gets into some major debt, and is trying to find a way out of it the hard way. This in and of itself is a pretty simple story and even though it may not be the most original ever in the whole, widest world, you would think Mamet’s skills as a writer would be definitely more than enough to save it from the same old shit we usually see. But Mamet doesn’t stop there and continues to go on and on and on with this story, almost to the point of where it’s random. He tries a little too hard with such a simple story about the underdog coming out on top, but adding so many characters, so many random twists, and so many consequences that could either happen this way, or not, and show how it effects the rest of the story. Seemed like way, way too much for a story like this and actually lost me a couple of times.
All of this wasn’t as terrible as I thought, until I got to the final act and that’s where I noticed that everything came full-circle for me. In a bad way, of course. The final act comes on pretty strong with the right bit of tension but Mamet pulls the rug from underneath us, gives us something to think about, and adds yet another twist to the already-confusing plot developments. But what I noticed about this ending is that I wasn’t as glued to the screen because Mamet had so much going on, that the central story itself just sort of gets lost in the muddle of it all. Surely, there must have been an easier way to get our main character back in the square-circle, without having to go through all of these life hurdles and surely, there must have been an less predictable and ludicrous ending like the one they have here. It could have just been simple, plaid, and usual, but that’s not how David Mamet rolls and whether or not you like that about this dude, is all up to what you prefer in life.
Mamet’s plot may get lost, but at least his characters stay true and that’s because of the performances from the stars involved. Mike Terry is an awesome role for Chiwetel Ejiofor because the guy, once again, gets to prove that he has what it takes to be a leading man and turn in a convincing performance, no matter what the movie or role may be. Not only can the guy spout-out Mamet-dialogue like it’s his job (technically, it was) but he also shows that he has a lot of great physical skills and it surprised me to hear that this dude didn’t have any previous martial arts training because he looked like a pro at what he was doing. Good thing that Mamet focused the film mostly on him, too.
The two females in Terry’s life are played by Alice Braga and Emily Mortimer, who are both good but aren’t given much to work with. Braga is Terry’s bitchy, money-hungry wife that would leave him in a heartbeat for some extra moolah, and Mortimer is Terry’s newly-found friend/student that is going through a rough time but her story never fully gets developed enough for us to care about her. Shame too, because both can give off some awesome work when they can. As for everybody else, you have the villains like Joe Mantegna, Ricky Jay, Rodrigo Santoro, and surprisingly, Tim Allen who all turn in some good work as a bunch of shady baddies, but are just all over-the-place that it’s hard to declare which one was the “baddest”. My money is on Buzz Lightyear. That guy seems like a total dick behind closed doors.
Consensus: David Mamet definitely brings a lot of fun to this curious, passion-project of sorts but Redbelt features way too many ideas, twists, and characters going on at the same time, to do nothing else but add confusion and take away from the final-product. It’s not a thrill-ride, but a more-sophisticated look at marital arts, with the occasional beat-down here and there.
6 / 10 = Rental!!
Drinkin’ in the courtrooooooom.
A washed-up, ambulance-chasing attorney (Paul Newman) gets a chance at redemption when his friend (Jack Warden) tosses him an open-and-shut medical malpractice case. But instead of accepting an easy cash settlement, he takes the powerful defendant to court. James Mason plays the opposing counsel, whom his legal adversary calls “The Prince of Darkness”.
Director Sidney Lumet is a favorite of mine and even his films that aren’t amazingly great, are still OK even if they may be nothing new.
This is a courtroom drama that isn’t really all about an up-lifting story that’s high on inspiration and corny lines. It’s more about this guy who actually gains a lot of self-esteem through this one case and has a new out-look on life. Yeah, it still sounds pretty cheesy but I can assure you, farthest thing from really.
The script done by David Mamet is good although it seems too much like a stage play, rather than an actual full-length feature film. However, there are moments where he shows brilliance whether it’s Newman yelling an annoying judge, Newman and his girl getting into a yelling match, or any of the courtroom scenes, Mamet seems like he knows exactly how he wants to say everything, and it works out very well here. With this film, there’s also a portrayal of how dark the legal system can actually be. Sometimes, not all the time, sometimes it’s not all about who’s right or who’s wrong, it’s actually about the money and who is going to get a certain amount for the decisions to be made. I thought this was a pretty bold point to show, and very cool to see in a courtroom drama like this one.
Lumet is also good with his direction here because he uses the slow-burn process well to where the story is built up the whole entire time, to the point where the last 10 minutes of the film keep you on your seat the whole time. Lumet also uses a bunch of silences and awkward pauses in-between all of these conversations these character’s have to give it a real-life feel.
However, the problem with this direction is that I really didn’t feel like this film was actually going anywhere. It didn’t mind the slow-pace because I thought it actually helped the film, but for a long long time I didn’t feel gripped by this story at all. I almost just felt like I was watching Newman do these little lawyers thing-a-ma-jigs here and there and I wasn’t wondering just what was going to happen next. The whole sub-plot with Newman and his lady-friend, played by Lindsay Crouse, I felt was a little weird and didn’t add much to the film other than a really cool scene that I think I already gave away but when you see it, it’s pretty cool I must say.
Paul Newman is very very good in this lead role as Frankie Glavin. Glavin is just a guy who wants to do right but is such a bum and so out of it when it comes to getting this course case done, he feels pressured and almost out-of-sorts. He once had it all, then he soon lost it all, and is now trying to win it all back. This is a great character, and a character that Newman plays so well. Newman’s delivery of his famously stirring closing argument, is a career highlight and probably my favorite scene from this film, other than the one I came close to mentioning. There is also another good performance from James Mason as Ed Concannon, and he practically made me want to punch his face in. That is a good thing too. Also, be on the look-out for a young Bruce Willis in the background of the film by the end. That bastard always shows up in the most random places!
Consensus: The Verdict has good performances, especially Paul Newman and a good script that keeps the story going with it’s slow-pace, but it doesn’t really start to gain momentum, until the last act where something just didn’t feel like I was taken along with this story.
Almost two hours of trick after trick.
After being caught on security cameras during a robbery at a Manhattan jewelry store, master thief Joe Moore (Gene Hackman) grudgingly agrees to pull off one last job at the behest of his maneuvering fence (Danny DeVito). Trouble is, pinching a shipment of gold ingots from a Swiss cargo plane won’t be easy.
Writer/Director David Mamet has always been known to be a very smooth, stylish director, that always seems to be one step ahead of the audience. And with this film he shows that very well, as he keeps this story interesting more, and more as the film goes on. There are plenty of plot twists mainly because a lot of the film is a bunch of acts created by these guys. What you see, isn’t exactly as it seems, and it was such a joy to see double-cross after double-cross, and how each one plays out.
I liked the old-school vibe to this film as it all played out so cool, and classy. Mamet doesn’t focus on random shoot-out sequences, instead he uses words to describe his actions, and the heist scenes themselves are actually pretty awesome and keep you on the edge of your seat.
My main gripe with this film however is the fact that not all of the double-crosses seem realistic enough to actually be believable. There are some moments where I thought to myself as to whether or not certain events or happenings would pan out the way they did realistically in real life, and some usually they didn’t seem believable. There isn’t also anything incredibly new that’s brought up here, but yet, I don’t think that’s really harming anyone either.
Gene Hackman does a good job as Joe, making him a likable character even though he does seem like sort of a grouch. Danny DeVito may not have the height to pull off a dangerous character such as the one he plays here, but he still makes it worth it, and has you believe that this small, tiny, bastard could really kill your ass. Delroy Lindo is basically the man in everything he does, and it’s nice to see him, playing the bad-ass he always is. Sam Rockwell also shows up, and does an amazing job as Jimmy, and brings a lot more to the screen, than the film had in mind.
Consensus: Not everything is believable, and certainly not different, but Heist offers up some good twists, with a good, old-school direction from Mamet.