Movie News & Reviews

David Mamet misses the mark completely

It sounds like a great idea: David Mamet, the playwright famous for brutal dialogue (Glengarry Glen Ross) and fiendish plot twists (House of Games), brings his formidable brain to the usually brainless genre of martial-arts action flicks. All the usual ­Mametian ingredients are here — con-men, magic tricks, the cauliflower-nosed actor Ricky Jay — but there's also the promise of the visual excitement that comes when men pummel each other on screen.

Redbelt fails on nearly ­every level, from its incoherent story line to its threadbare action sequences. Chiwetel Ejiofor (American Gangster) stars as Mike Terry, a jiu-jitsu teacher with a samurai's composure: He uses his skills only reluctantly. But after he's conned by an aging action star (Tim Allen) and a sleazy movie producer (Joe Mantegna), he must enter a mixed martial-arts competition to make everything right. You've seen teen breakdancing flicks with better plots, and cooler acrobatics, than this.

For Mamet, who in recent years began studying jiu-jitsu, Redbelt surely has some personal resonance and inner logic. For the rest of us, it's proof that even the most ­assured filmmaker can fall flat on his face.