Set against the backdrop of mixed martial arts, which combines jiu-jitsu, wrestling, boxing and kickboxing, "Redbelt" has all the ingredients in place to emerge as one of his more commercial efforts while still remaining true to those distinct Mamet sensibilities.
As the heart and soul of the film, Chiwetel Ejiofor once again impresses as Mike Terry, a committed jiu-jitsu teacher and Gulf War veteran who runs a struggling academy on Los Angeles' Westside with his Brazilian wife, Sondra (Alice Braga).
The answer to his financial woes would appear to present itself following a chance encounter with an aging action movie star (introspectively played by Tim Allen), but Terry soon discovers that the outside world doesn't adhere to the same, moral samurai's code.
Unable to extricate himself from an even bigger mess, he's left with no choice but to enter the professional ring despite his philosophical issues with the competitive arena.
Mamet, himself a blue belt in jiu-jitsu (the red belt represents the discipline's most sacred honor), obviously has a passion for the subject matter, but make no mistake, he has no intention of making a conventional fight film.
So even though his regular ensemble, including Joe Mantegna, Ricky Jay and Rebecca Pidgeon, has been augmented with a number of professional practitioners to up the production's street cred, Mamet finds plenty of room for his usual preoccupations, like personal integrity and the art of the con.
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