Redbelt (2008)

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4.5 stars outta 5

“A fight is not won by one punch or kick. Either learn to endure or hire a bodyguard.”

– Bruce Lee

In my previous review of “Ip Man” I mentioned that I felt strangely dissatisfied with the movie’s lack of wushu spirit in its theme and for the weirdest reason, I just couldn’t let the flaw of the movie go while half wanting to recommend it.

I needed a closure; and what better way do this than watching yet another martial arts movie.

Yet,to call Redbelt “another martial arts movie”, is like saying The Dark Knight was merely another comic book movie. A bold claim, yes. But not entirely unjustified.

The latest movie from David Mamet shows us the fight that most of its peers does not offer enough of: The struggle within.

Chiwetel Ejiofor (quite a mouthful, eh?) plays Mike Terry, a jiujitsu instructor who explains that he doesn’t teach people to fight, but to prevail.  An interesting comment, since his dojo is not making money, has a shattered glass from an incident that may lead to his one of …two(?) students going to jail, he’s unable to pay his rent and to top this off, his wife ends up borrowing money from a loan shark for a bust business deal that she could never pay off.

It sure is a good thing that Mike’s brother in law happens to be running an ‘Ultimate Fighting Champion-ish’ tournament. And with a $40,000 top prize carrot dangling in front of a desperate man, could this finally be the straw to break the camel’s back ?  Does every man, even a honourable one like Mike, truly have a price?

I have but merely scratched Redbelt’s surface in its intricate plot lines, a wonderful character piece case study on the theme of honour, a subject matter sorely missing in many martial arts movies; and to see it  on an American movie actually makes it even more remarkable to me.

Now, the movie does have its flaws.  The overly macho dialogue sounds like they belong to another world (Who talks like that in real life!?!) the fact that everything piece of the puzzle falls oh so neatly into place in the film.  But I am more than willing to ignore this shortcomings because I have simply enjoyed the ride that Mamet is bringing me.

Of course, it would be ridiculous of me to expect all martial arts movies to suddenly stop fighting and to start preaching, what would be the fun in that?

But, dear reader, hear me out.  In today’s world where money seem to be the most important thing, it heartens me to think that old fashioned values like honour and respect still means something to somebody, even he is a work of fiction.

THAT should be the spirit of wushu, of martial arts, and for better or worse, for our lives.

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