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MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for strong language

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Action, Drama
1 hr. 39 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
May 9, 2008, following May 2 exclusive release
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Relevant Issues
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How does viewing violence in movies affect the family? Answer

Featuring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tim Allen, Alice Braga, Jeffrey Addiss, Joseph Alfieri, Douglas Barcellos, Craig Collington Bator, Matt Cable, Cathy Cahlin Ryan, Ryan Everett Canfield, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Randy Couture, Steve DeCastro, Caroline de Souza Correa, Scott Farrell, Hugh Fitzgerald, Mike Goldberg, Vincent Guastaferro, Damon Herriman, Kei Hirayama, Caroline Z. Hurley, Dan Inosanto, Enson Inoue, Ricky Jay, Bob Jennings, Jake M. Johnson, Allison Karman, Jess King, Jean Jacques Machado, John Machado, Renato Magno, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Joe Mantegna, Max Martini, Jennifer McTamney, Emily Mortimer, Marc Opitz, David Paymer, Emily Peck, Rebecca Pidgeon, James Ralph, Rob Reinis, Jonathan Rossetti, Lee Ryder, Rodrigo Santoro, Tino Struckmann, Cyril Takayama, Daniel Cage Theodore, Galen Tong, Erin Anne Williams
Director: David Mamet (“Glengarry Glen Ross,” “The Untouchables,” “Hannibal”)
Producer: Chrisann Verges
Distributor: Sony Pictures

“There’s always a way out. You just have to find it.”

I’ve noticed that David Mamet films often generate two opposite reactions. People either love them immensely, and feel that Mamet is a genius, or hate the movies, and feel he is vastly overrated. It's funny, because depending on the film, I have felt both. There is no doubt though that Mamet takes some getting used to, and if one were to experience his films for the very first time, “Redbelt” might be a great one to start with, because, as far as Mamet films go, this may be one of the easiest to follow.

Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mike Terry, a jiu-jitsu instructor whose academy has fallen on hard times financially, but maintains a small core of dedicated students, including officer Joe Ryan (Max Martini). Terry's wife Sondra (Alice Braga) runs a small clothing business on the side, and keeps the academy afloat by paying the bills with her earnings. A chance encounter with a troubled lawyer (Emily Mortimer) sets in motion the events that fuel the majority of the film, which involve a number of colorful characters, including the “struggling movie star” (Tim Allen), his shady manager (Joe Mantegna), a nervous loan shark (David Paymer), and a pompous fight-promoter (Mamet regular Ricky Jay). How all these characters are intertwined into the story I will leave for you to discover on your own, but, suffice it to say, all the characters and story angles mesh into one rather solid story.

The characters in Mamet films can rarely be described as morally upstanding citizens, and those in “Redbelt” are no different. Mamet films thrive on lies, deceptions, and back-stabbing (sometimes literally), and the shady dealings of the majority of Redbelt's colorful characters maintain those seedy standards. This film is rated “R,” and it is primarily for strong language. The F-word is heard a number of times, as are just about every other phrase we've heard in movies, but not in huge amounts. There is some violence in the fight scenes, and one character is seen dead with a gunshot wound to the head.

There isn't much in terms of sexual content. We do see one woman briefly in her underwear, while she is changing, and there is implied nudity as she finishes changing off-screen. As with any film, Christians should make the decision whether to watch this movie based on their own standards, but this movie is most certainly one for adult audiences, Christian or not.

There are no references in the film to God, and when the characters find themselves in need of help of any kind, they rely on man to get them through it, when as Christians, we realize that God is what these characters need most, not a bigger loan, or a thriving business, or anything else that may drive them. Naturally, we recognize this is a movie, and don't expect these characters to be godly, wholesome people, and these characters will definitely leave Christian audiences with topics to discuss afterwards.

As a whole, “Redbelt” is a captivating film from the very beginning. Mamet is, of course, a master of realistic dialog that somehow always feels awkward (but not in a bad way), and once again delivers the goods. He is aided this time with a splendid cast of Mamet newcomers, and Mamet regulars. Ejiofor is simply stunning as Mike Terry. His performance is convincing in every frame, and we have trouble taking our eyes off the screen, because he is that commanding in this role. Tim Allen takes on a role that, on paper, doesn't seem to fit his style, but he delivers a strong supporting performance that reminded me of Steve Martin’s dramatic turn in Mamet's “The Spanish Prisoner.” Emily Mortimer is great, as always, as a woman who is forced to face her fears and take on a risky challenge to help herself.

My only dislike of “Redbelt” was the fight scenes. Often in the film, as we see people fighting in the background, or fighting in a video, or surveillance cameras, we are very much aware that the scenes are staged. They are shot in a jumpy way, and simply look fake. But, at the end of the day, when that's the worst I can say about “Redbelt,” I'm alright with a little phony fighting.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Minor

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—David Mamet's “Redbelt” has both action and smarts. While the pacing may seem a bit slow at times, it's the story that comes first. The acting is great and the overall story is original. The main character is a man of principle and morals, who stands his ground in face of the evils of this world.

Not a lot of objectionable content besides some profanity. It's rated R for “Strong Language” but, for a David Mamet story (who also wrote “GlenGary Glenross” which as 138 F-words in 100 minutes), it's relatively clean. But the language is enough for the R rating and the action in the movie is not very violent or bloody.

I highly recommend this movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Anthony, age 20