Redbelt (2008) demonstrates the true meaning of Budo
Redbelt is a 2008 martial arts film with a difference, written and directed by David Mamet, and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alice Braga, Emily Mortimer, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Max Martini and Tim Allen with appearances from Dan Inosanto and a few other martial artists.
Mike Terry (Ejiofor) runs South Side Jiu-Jitsu studio and adheres strongly to the warrior code or Budo. However, everyone around him use the art and those in it as a source of income.
One night when he tries to close the studio Laura Black (Mortimer) approaches him asking if knows the owner of a vehicle she side swiped. However, when off-duty policeman Joe Collins (Martini) approaches to take her coat, a clearly distressed Black grabs and accidentally fires his gun which destroys the studio’s front window.
Mike and Joe agree to conceal the incident know the implications it could have on Laura. However, things take a turn for the worse when it starts off a chain of events that eventually lead to tragedy.
Chiwetel Ejiofor brings a certain quality of acting to a martial art character that sets it apart. Unlike the masculine types portrayed in most films of this genre, this one emphasizes the emotional aspect and takes a serious look at the business of fighting. The fighting takes second place. However, that is not to say the fighting doesn’t look good – it looks great – and a good number of actual martial artists are involved.
Randy Couture, Enson Inoue, John Machado and Dan Inosanto play minor but important roles in the film.
The film is about the fight within and is something most martial artists can relate to. As a martial artist myself, I could sympathize with the main character’s dilemma and the choices he had to make.
It was refreshing to see a film of the martial genre where the outside battle was as interesting as the personal fight. It is also one of, or probably the only film I’ve seen which features Brazillian Jiu-jitsu and grappling arts.
If you are looking for a film with blood and guts and a lot of fighting then this wouldn’t be your cup of tea. However, if you are looking for a good story then it doesn’t get better than this.