Redbelt Review

Redbelt-Review.jpgThanks 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 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:

16 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. The Other James Taylor

    I take it then that this film didn’t exactly live up to David Mamet’s usual level of filmmaking in terms of his generally stunning dialog?

  2. padthai

    where’s the Iron Man review? You said you were going to see it on Monday.

  3. Hey PadThai,

    As I mentioned earlier, I was an idiot and arrived late to the screening and we couldn’t get in. The evening wasn’t a total waste though… we went to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall again.

  4. Justin Levine

    James Taylor -

    Mamet’s “generally stunning dialog”?? Where would this be? Spartan? Can you name one line of memorable dialog from that? Heist? You can’t seriously be impressed with claptrap like “He’s so cool that when he sleeps, sheep count him.”

    Mamet is an AWFUL director and screenwriter. I’d even say that he’s a very overrated playwright. Glenn Gary Glenn Ross is his one bright spot, but even that is not good enough to warrant his reputation. The only reason the Glenn Gary film was watchable was because Mamet didn’t direct that one.

  5. bryan

    John you might not believe this but Entertainment Weekly gave RedBelt a B+ & Son of Rambow a C+

  6. Hey Bryan,

    But Rottentomatoes right now shows that critics overall give Son Of Rambow an 80% and Redbelt a 62% How on earth anyone gives this movie a positive review is beyond me. But that is the most beautiful thing about film… the pure subjectivity of it.

  7. The Other James Taylor

    I personally think Mamet’s “The Spanish Prisoner” has some of the best dialog of any movie. Heist is nearly as good. A good line from Spartan? I’ll give you several:

    “Scott: Don’t you teach ‘em knife fighting. Teach ‘em to kill. That way, they meet some sonofabitch who studied knife fighting, they send his soul to hell.”

    “Scott: You wanted to go through the looking glass. How was it? Was it more fun than miniature golf? ”

    “Scott: You’re gonna leave your life or you’re gonna leave the information in this room”

    “Scott: Honey, you got all the slack in the world until I leave this room. Then I’m gonna zero you out. ”

    Try paying attention next time.

    As for my original question, I was more asking if Redbelt would have Mamet’s trademark sharp dialogue along with entertaining MMA fight scenes. But I’ll have to wait to find out for myself, or if they take pity on my theatre and send it to us.

  8. Darren J Seeley

    Thanks, James Taylor. “Spartan” took me by surprise, and I always felt it underrated. Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, Tia Texia…who should be in more stuff…Kristen Bell…! I also liked “Heist”…but, I’m sorry, really. To me, he hasn’t been as great as his directing start, the brilliant “House Of Games”.

    So I’m also surprised by John’s review here. Mamet usually doesn’t write shallow, wafer thin characters. But perhaps that could also be part of his disappointment. However…John also contradicts himself.

    Where, John? How about here:
    “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”

    less then two paragraphs later…

    “Aside from Chiwetel, all the characters were paper thin as far as depth goes.”

    Odd stuff.

  9. He4y Darren,

    Nope, no contradiction there. There is a difference between a character and the actor portraying the character. My mild compliment was for the job Allen did portraying the character… the character itself was weak though.

  10. Darren J Seeley

    But it was “a different sort” of character for Allen and he “did it well”. (Your words) See where I’m confused? But it’s good that that you clarified this.

  11. Bleh

    I’m with Darren, John. Why is it that every time someone contradicts you, that they’re wrong and you deem yourself correct? Talk about self-righteous.

  12. Hey Darren,

    No, I can’t see how you’re confused. I said the character was thin. Then I said Allen didn’t do a bad job playing the character.

    So I made comments about 2 totally different things:

    1) The Character
    2) The actor

    How is that confusing?

  13. bret

    Chiwetel is one of my fav actors at the moment, its a shame to see him in this but I knew he would do his part at trying to save it.

  14. Antonio Spinozzi

    I went to school with Chiwetel Ejiofor. Never really knew him… spoke to him a couple of times in the library. Decent guy.

  15. Mark Salinas

    No Thanks! I will wait for the ABC special on the tube.

    Mark Salinas

  16. Justin Levine

    James Taylor -

    Those aren’t good lines of dialog in my book. Those are just Mamet’s usual exercise in verbal masturbation.

    His dialog is so lame it makes Sesame Street characters reach for crack vials to help keep the clouds away. (See how easy this lame dialog is to create?)

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