Redbelt takes place on the familiar rainy streets on the wrong-side-of-town setting that Mamet has made famous. Gulf War veteran Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) owns and instructs a jiu-jitsu dojo where he teaches the fundamentals of “the academy”, practicing the philosophy of a strict code of moral behavior that he lives by. His wife (a smoking Alice Braga) busts his chops constantly about money, something Mike feels unnecessary. It isn’t soon before a plethora of characters are thrown into the mix and become entwined in each other’s lives.
After an event with a lawyer (Emily Mortimer) and cop Mike instructs, wheels are set in motion to fuel the charged film. Soon a famous action-hero actor (Tim Allen, in his best role to date, nailing the Mamet dialouge in a breezy bar scene) and his squad of gooney guys are stirred into the Mamet pot to dive deep into a dark underworld.
Redbelt acts as a who’s-who for character actors, most of which are Mamet vets. David Paymer and Joe Mantegna always deliver their best work when Mamet his written their lines. And Ricky Jay (a great performer) gives another spot-on performance. No one utters a Mamet line better than Ricky Jay. Other supporting characters fill out the full cast sheet, all while making their mark. Cathy Cahlin Ryan who plays Vic Mackey’s wife on The Shield gives one of the best five minute performances I have seen in quite some time. Her eyes pierced with anger, her words filled with disgust.
Chiwetel Ejiofor (pronounced chew-a-tell, edge-e-o-four) gives yet another brilliant performance as a guy who is forced to relinquish all he has lived. The title of Oscar Winner will precede his name before too long.
Mortimer, great in Lars and the Real Girl, always has her voice on the edge of cracking, ready to whisper or scream in an instant. The scene when she tells Mike why she is an embodied mess will stay with you for a long time.
But the real star here is Mamet himself. He doesn’t make mainstream movies, his films appeal to a narrow group of people, but that group expands every time he releases something new. I always tell people that they haven’t heard the F-word until they’ve heard it from a David Mamet character. The plots themselves almost seem second to the dialogue, the beauty of Redbelt is its ability to stand up to the material. A