Thursday, October 02, 2008

REDBELT - well-acted thriller undone by schmaltzy ending and ludicrous paranoia

David Mamet specialises in this sort of movie: brilliant dialogue, solid casting, plot twists up the wazoo. The problem is that the balance is off-kilter in REDBELT. It's a thriller in which the plot twists and depth of betrayal is so complete and, at times, so seemingly random, as to defy plausibility and empathy.

All of which is a shame, because Chiwetel Ejiofor does a great job in bringing the protagonist, Mike Terry, to life. He perfectly articulates the attraction and absurdity of a man like Terry. On the one hand, this martial arts instructer is laudably honest, loyal and intelligent. He's a stand-up guy. On the other hand, you can see why his wife, Brazilian "princess" Sondra (Alice Braga), would be infuriated by her husband's lack of business sense. Idealists are admirable, but who's gonna keep the business going?

Short of cash, Terry and Sondra get a seemingly lucky break. By chance, Terry saves a Hollywood star (superb against-the-grain cameo by Tim Allen) in a bar-fight and suddenly Terry's going to be a Hollywood producer and his wife is going to be a fashion designer. Problem is, Terry's martial arts training method is ripped off to spice up a pay-per-view martial arts fight. Who's the villain? The Hollywood star? His in-laws? His wife?

Terry runs around trying to keep his head above water. Everyone is sullied by greedy capitalism but Terry. The crude contrast of idealism and greed is ludicrous, as is the schmaltzy denouement straight from THE KARATE KID. I'm not sure what Mamet is trying to say. Worse still, I'm not sure I even care.

REDBELT opened earlier this year in the USA, Brazil, Estonia, Spain, Australia, Belgium, Italy and Germany. It is currently on release in the UK.

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