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Mixed-martial arts instructor Mike Terry has never fought in prize bouts, but events lead him to land a job in the entertainment business and consider fighting in the ring for the first time in his life in order to pay off his debts and regain his honor.
For more about Redbelt and the Redbelt Blu-ray release, see Redbelt Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 28, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Emily Mortimer, Alice Braga, Tim Allen, Joe Mantegna, Rodrigo Santoro
Director: David Mamet
» See full cast & crew
Redbelt Blu-ray Review
A wonderful below-the-radar film shows its true colors on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 28, 2008
"Who imposes the terms of the battle will impose the terms of the peace." Stated at the opening of the film, this quote spoken by character Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor, American Gangster), represents his philosophy both in fighting and in life. It's a sound philosophy, but not an absolute one. Scholars of history may find instances where this quasi-truism holds true and where it fails, and indeed, so too does Mike Terry discover its flaws throughout the course of the film. Naturally, however, as a study in philosophy, one may also look at the end of the film and see a resurfacing and reinforcement of the accuracy of Mike's philosophy. Such an open-ended finale is part of what makes Redbelt fantastic cinema, and while the film ends rather abruptly, one may take away from it what we can read into David Mamet's meaning, and a feeling that there is something quite important to learn from Mike's final destination of his long journey. David Mamet's Redbelt is a convention-defying film, one that is part philosophical study, part human drama, and wholly mesmerizing. Mamet's characters, heard through the sound dialogue of his realistically penned script, and equally realistic photographed film, form the foundation of his stories, and Redbelt is no different. If ever there was a thinking man's film, it is Redbelt, but the material is not so haughtily written and arrogantly committed to film so as to exclude the more average filmgoer who may be turned off by more intellectually stimulating (or perhaps better said as "dry") cinema. Unfortunately, filmgoers shunned Redbelt in theaters; the film grossed a paltry $2.3 million in domestic box office, failing to recover even half of its estimated $7,000,000 budget. Truly, Redbelt is mesmerizing cinema that weaves a fascinating and engaging tale in a down-to-Earth, user-friendly manner. It is a film that deserves a much better place in modern cinema lure than its box office numbers reflect.
There is no situation you cannot escape from. There is no situation that you cannot turn to your advantage.
Providing a synopsis of Redbelt is a disservice to lovers of cinema who may find the film that rare combination of intelligence and mass appeal. It's an organic movie, one with a story that is not complex but rather involved and evolving, one that builds on every frame one after the other. There is no wasted shot, scene, or sequence. Each ties into another, and the story burgeons and blossoms as it builds to a crescendo that may not satisfy viewers. However, the ending will certainly drive home the message of the movie and return Mike to a place where he is once again placed in a state of ease rather than the upheaval that builds throughout the film. Mamet does not offer a wall-to-wall fighting movie. If there truly is a centralized theme of fighting throughout the movie, it is the incessant verbal and emotional attacks on the characters, particularly Mike, as his way of life is slowly but surely taken away from him, beginning with a simple accident at his Jiu-Jitsu dojo. The mishap spawns a series of events that leads Mike to meet new "friends" and lose others, face an unending assault of chaos and deception, and have all that he has worked for stripped away. Mike will indeed have to fight not for his physical survival, but for the honor of his philosophy and way of life.
Conquer your fear, and you will conquer your opponent.
Redelt is a movie that demands multiple viewings, one that left me yearning to see it again only moments after it ended. The film asks many questions and weaves its tale in such a way that many nuances may elude viewers upon the initial screening. That's not to say it's overly complicated or presents a tangled, intricate plot that will leave viewers scratching their heads as the movie concludes. Just the opposite is true, in fact. The tale it tells is so eloquently penned, so precisely filmed, so well-delivered by its actors, and so nuanced and layered, that the experience leaves audiences wanting to go back and witness it again, this time with its conclusion in mind. Second and subsequent viewings will open one to the film's deeper secrets, the subtleties that reinforce the story, and the philosophies of the characters. I suspect that following a second viewing, we will each see the film in a completely different light. Everything comes together in perfect harmony in Redbelt. While no single factor may cause audiences to stand up and take notice, it's the whole of the film, all of the very well-done parts, that come together to make it one of the best movies of the decade.
It is tone and realism that make Redbelt a memorable film. Redbelt doesn't feel like a movie. It feels so real that we are sometimes fooled into thinking we are a witness to the events in the film, standing there inside Southside Jiu-Jistu, waiting with Mike in the subterranean depths of the arena before the fight, or on the set of a Gulf War-themed motion picture. This sense or reality comes about not only by David Mamet's smart writing and direction, but by the natural performance of the actors. Chiwetel Ejiofor in particular displays a broad range of emotions through the movie, but he grounds his character in reality, never swaying from his well-meaning and admirable ways no matter the hardships he faces. Though the movie features less than we may expect in the way of hard-hitting physical action, the film's dramatic value is high, always exciting and engaging, and sometimes nerve rattling. At the beginning of every scene we have no idea what to expect. For example, as Mike is called to prepare to fight, the sense of fear, excitement, and exhilaration all come flooding into your gut. The movie's ending is satisfactory, but may leave some audience members unsure of what to make of it, but therein lies the joy of seeing it again. The film is not too smart for its own good, but in a world full of movies like What Happens in Vegas and One Missed Call, films like Redbelt and No Country For Old Men represent hope for a brighter cinematic future and serve as reassurance as to why we love film and the powerful medium it can be.
Redbelt Blu-ray, Video Quality
Redbelt debuts on Blu-ray with a fine-looking 1080p, 2.39:1-framed high definition transfer. Certainly worthy of being called "very good," this transfer could still be labeled as "unspectacular." That's not a knock, but the fact is that the film's visual style doesn't translate to head-turning, jaw-dropping, eye-popping high definition eye candy. What this transfer does is come across as pleasing, clear, and clean. It pushes all the right buttons, but it excels at no one thing. Rather, this transfer is rock-solid in its own way, and just because it doesn't dazzle doesn't mean it is not good. Flesh tones are accurate in every frame, detail is generally strong, and black levels are dead-on accurate. Look at the uniforms worn by the competitors as they enter the ring in chapter eleven, and those worn by Mike and his students at the beginning of the movie. The texture emits that incredibly realistic "reach out and touch it" look. Likewise, a few close-up shots of belts (yes, even a red belt) look great, as each row of horizontal stitches and a few frays hanging off the edges are well-rendered and look fine. The transfer does exhibit some softness, and detail is only moderate in long-distance shots and background objects. Nevertheless, it's a solid effort, and the somewhat uninteresting visuals seem more a result of filmmaker intent rather than a lackluster transfer.
Redbelt Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Redbelt's lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is, like the movie itself, neither flashy nor action-oriented, but it is well-crafted and engrossing in its own right. Dialogue is excellently reproduced. It's focused in the center, and as the foundation of the film it never fails to impress, from the opening moments in the dojo onward. There is very little in the way of surround speaker activity during the first act of the movie. Nearly silent, ambience generally comes from the front speakers. Where Redbelt's soundtrack succeeds is in its highly natural sound design. Listen to the man walking the fighters through the pre-fight routine in chapter eleven. There is a subtle reverberation inside the expansive arena, and the effect is incredibly realistic. Ambient noise picks up considerably in the fight sequences showcased in the final act of the movie. This realistic, pleasant sequence puts us in the arena without overwhelming the senses. Where some soundtracks are artificially enhanced to make us turn and look in the direction of the surround speakers, subsequently taking our attention away from the film, Redbelt creates a seamless atmosphere, when the situation calls for one, and the result is splendid. This is a fine soundtrack that won't win "most active" of the year, but it certainly compliments the film perfectly.
Redbelt Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The supplements on this Blu-ray edition of Redbelt is sure to please fans. The highlight of the proceedings is a commentary track featuring writer/director David Mamet and actor Randy Couture (Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior). Mamet consistently offers interesting information, and Couture is no slouch himself, mostly complimenting Mamet but providing his own unique insight as well. Couture does seem a bit lost when Mamet delves into the film's aspect ratio and offers a brief history of ratios, but that's what makes the track interesting. Each bring their own strengths to the track and recognize that they are both there not to overshadow one another, but to compliment one another. The track meanders on occasion to off-topic materials, but it remains an interesting listen throughout.
Next up is Behind-the-Scenes of 'Redbelt' (1080i, 19:09). This is a good but run-of-the-mill piece featuring cast and crew discussing various aspects of the film, beginning with a brief "in praise of" look at the work of David Mamet and moving into the basics of the shoot, looking at costumes, locations, fight choreography, casting, and more. Inside Mixed Martial Arts (1080i, 18:52) is an examination of the world of Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts, beginning with Mamet's own love of the sport (he's a purple belt) and moving into the histories and philosophies of each sport. Q&A With Director David Mamet (480p, 26:20) is a sit-down with the director as he answers various questions about the film. He calls Redbelt a "fight film" and describes his thoughts on why the movie works as such. Mamet proves himself to be an intelligent yet down-to-earth individual with a passion for his work and the sport of Jiu-Jitsu. Next is An Interview With Dana White (1080i, 16:53). White is the President of Ultimate Fighting Championship and delves into the history of his sport and its current state. Fighter Profiles (1080i, 4:11) features clips from the movie and text-based facts about each fighter. The Magic of Cyril Takayama (1080i, 4:35) is a profile of this actor/magician who appears in the film. Also included are 1080p trailers for Redbelt, Married Life, Standard Operating Procedure, 88 Minutes, The Counterfeiters, Youth Without Youth, Persepolis, Sleuth, Steep, CJ7, and Felon. Finally, this disc is BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) enabled. Viewers are taken to Sony's standard page with trailers, a FAQ, a survey, and more.
Redbelt Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
While Redbelt may not go down in cinema lore with the likes of The Godfather or other enduring classics, it makes its mark as a modern masterpiece of thoughtful cinema molded in an audience-friendly style. It is fresh, appealing, and very smart, a film that leaves viewers to decide for themselves what it is they've seen and come to their own thoughtful conclusions. This is but one reason why the film lends itself so well to repeat viewings. It also holds up well because of the brilliance of the script. It's brilliant in its simplicity and its delivery. The actors' performance are nothing short of perfect, especially that of Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is flawless. David Mamet's Redbelt is an instant classic in my book, a film that defies conventions and dares to be different and far more thought-provoking than most of its contemporaries, even if the film is advertised as more of an action/drama, although physical action does play a necessary part in the film. Film and Blu-ray collectors cannot go wrong with Redbelt. Sony's presentation of the film on Blu-ray is admirable. Featuring a solid video presentation, a reserved yet effective soundtrack, and some fine supplements, the disc deserves a place in every serious Blu-ray collection. Redbelt comes highly recommended!
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