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Arts & Life

'Redbelt'

Against his better judgment, principled martial-arts master Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor, center) takes down a pair of policemen who get in his way. Lorey Sebastian/Sony Pictures Classics hide caption

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Lorey Sebastian/Sony Pictures Classics

Against his better judgment, principled martial-arts master Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor, center) takes down a pair of policemen who get in his way.

Lorey Sebastian/Sony Pictures Classics
  • Director: David Mamet
  • Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 99 minutes

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In this quasi-inspirational martial-arts drama, the scuzzes and scumbags — usually front and center in David Mamet movies — play supporting roles to the principled guy who'd normally be their patsy. Inspiration? From Mamet? Well yes, in a manner of speaking.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is Mike Terry, the aphorism-spouting proprietor of a martial-arts school, whose mantra in a fight-to-win profession is "fight to prevail." Mike's a compulsive do-gooder, out to help (a) a manic woman with drug issues (Emily Mortimer), (b) a police officer with control issues (Max Martini), (c) a wife with money issues (Alice Braga) and (d) a self-destructive Hollywood celeb with self-image issues (Tim Allen). As you might imagine, this leads to a plot line that feels as scattered as it is overthought.

With Mamet regulars Ricky Jay (as a fight promoter) and Joe Mantegna (as his crooked lawyer) haunting the story's fringes and sputtering in the writer-director's patented brand of street-speak, the film is never dull. But Mamet isn't terribly comfortable with the Rocky-style big-fight finish his plot requires — and in trying to finesse it, he's left his film fighting to prevail over a finale that's at once implausible and clumsy.