Every once and a while, our challenger fails. They bring us a movie that just isn’t quite good enough to drum up enough votes to make it on the list. But we are a generous council. Before these films are removed from our sight and forever banned from consideration, the challenger gets one final word. One last opportunity to talk about their movie. It won’t change things, but it makes them feel important. This…is the minority report.
Redbelt (2008) – Directed by David Mamet, Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor
Nominated by Daniel Freeman on 8/18/16 – Rejected by a 2-1 Vote. Listen to the episode
Redbelt is a movie about honor. Consistently, Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) chooses the right path—the pure path. And consistently, he is punished. This frames the film as a continuous fight, both literally—the film bookends with jiu jitsu bouts—and figuratively—Terry struggles against the morally bankrupt entertainment industry. When the struggle briefly lets up, to offer just a moment of respite for Terry and his wife, it just as quickly turns—drives them apart, and nearly emotionally destroys Terry.
This overarching tension makes the film a masterful character study. Ejiofor’s performance as a too-pure- for-this- world modern-samurai- sensei is perfect. You feel his frustration, and you feel his loss. I’m even able to forgive the sometimes winding and tortuous narrative because I so convincingly buy the character of Mike Terry. I want him to succeed, even if he lives in a cartoon world of evil capitalists and one-dimensional scumbags.
Probably, though, the film is most effective for me because I did martial arts when I was younger. Redbelt isn’t a movie for flashy fighting and flying along bamboo sticks (although I enjoy those movies too!)—it’s a movie for people that have spent time getting thrown around on foam floors. Mike Terry’s philosophy is familiar to me. Even if it’s naïve—even if it’s unrealistic, or even anachronistic, it’s something I can respect. – Daniel