Thanks for checking out our Redbelt review. If you’d like, you can watch the video version of our Redbelt review at the bottom of this post.
I’ve been a huge fan of Mixed Martial Arts ever since I saw UFC #2 many many years ago. I still remember very vividly watching Royce Graice, a skinny little guy absolutely mow through men 2 and 3 times his size and weight. All these flashy fighters with their punches, flying kicks and spinning back fists were all made totally useless as Gracie always got them on the ground (where their flying kicks were meaningless), tied them up like a cobra, and then would either choke them out or make them tap (give up). Suddenly the world knew about Jiu-Jitsu and the real world of MMA was born.
So when you bring along a movie that appears to focus on the art, and it stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (who I’ve been a huge fan of ever since seeing him in Serenity a couple of years back) it instantly gets my attention. And so here comes “Redbelt”.
THE GENERAL IDEA
The synopsis for Redbelt looks like this: “Tim Allen and Chiwetel Ejiofor star in writer/director David Mamet’s martial arts drama concerning a jujitsu master who becomes corrupted by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. When a respected jujitsu master (Ejiofor) eschews a lucrative prizefighting career in favor of opening a self-defense 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. Later, as the master is being relentlessly beaten in a dirty street fight, he connects with a high-profile action star (Allen) with serious marital problems. Realizing that the only way to regain his honor is to step into the ring, the jujitsu master reluctantly prepares for the fight of his life.”
Surprise surprise, Chiwetel Ejiofor is fantastic in it. Not only did he look convincing performing the martial arts (which is often a big flaw in many of these types of movies) he also just gives a great performance. A troubled warrior who is trying to lead a peaceful existence suddenly confronted with doubt, adversity, betrayal and the weaknesses in his own character as well. Very well played.
One of the worst things about any sort of “fight” movie (karate, boxing, street fighting, whatever) is that they often look good, but have zero levels of believability because every single punch or kick that gets thrown would knock out a normal human being… and these fights inevitably end up having massive haymakers landing with every shot. Redbelt avoids that trapping and just has the fights look like real fights without the flashy glamour of knock out power shots with every punch. It’s not as flashy to look at on screen, but it adds to the authentic feel.
Surprisingly enough Tim Allen wasn’t that bad in the film. I rolled my eyes the moment I heard he was in this, but I’ve got to admit he was pretty good. It was a different sort of character for him and he did it pretty well.
If the combat looked believable in the movie… then that was the only believable part of the whole damn thing. The plot was so full of imagination defying nonsense and unrealistic scenarios that I spent a good part of the movie with my face buried in my hands. It’s hard to go into it too much without crossing into spoiler territory… but it just seemed like EVERYTHING that happened in the movie was not the way it would have happened in real life. It was so bad… gaahhhhh!!! I can’t say way it was bad because it would be a train of spoilers. Let me put it like this: The concept and general idea of the film were quite good… but the actual fleshing out and execution of the story was pathetic.
Aside from Chiwetel, all the characters were paper thin as far as depth goes.
Redbelt is a terrible movie that is ALMOST saved by authentic looking martial arts with a great character and a wonderful performance given to that character. Everything else surrounding that character was an unbelievable insult to human intelligence. So while there are some redeeming qualities to the film, I ended up just hating the flick. Overall I’m giving Redbelt a 3.5 out of 10.
You can watch the video version of our Redbelt review here: