Redbelt has one problem — it ends. It’s not that it’s so incredible you want it to end, but that the ending is too open to interpretation. No matter how you take the events that precede it, there’s something here that doesn’t add up or make sense. It’s a shame too, because this is a fine movie across the board that simply crumbles in its final moments.
While it deals with the currently hot topic of mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting, it doesn’t sell out to take advantage of the sport. If anything, the lead character, played with care by Chiwetel Ejiofor, looks down on the sport. He feels it’s without honor, and against the very meaning of his craft as a martial arts instructor.
Redbelt seems to move tepidly. Certain characters are overdeveloped, and others are horrendously under-developed. Tim Allen in particular seems forgotten after an extensive (and surprising) role, dropped from the third chapter entirely. The pacing doesn’t hinder the film though, and instead builds tension through small glimpses of a growing mystery. There’s something not right with the situation as presented, and while it doesn’t come out in full force until the final act, there’s a consistent sense of growing dread in the script.
One would suspect that with such a keen eye for sustaining the interest of the audience, writer/director David Mamet would have taken more care in crafting the ending. The one true MMA fight is slapped together and impossible to follow. As Ejiofor makes his final stand, things take an impossible, illogical, and completely unbelievable turn before turning out to be confusing. The film feels unfinished, with the fates of many characters left up to the audience, assuming they believe some of them had an actual part in any of this.
It’s a shame too, because everything else about Redbelt is played perfectly. It’s engaging drama throughout, and while the film is hard to discuss without spoiling much of its story (the DVD/Blu-ray cover is a spoiler however), rest assured it’s hardly worth the effort. This one comes close to greatness before collapsing under its own weight simply because the story can’t conclude in a satisfactory manner. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
Redbelt comes to Blu-ray in a fine effort. The initial burst of color lasts throughout, with bold tones enhancing the entire presentation. Fine detail is strong, and the sharpness never wavers. Black levels are rich, though do (rarely) fade slightly. Critical eyes will detect the slightest hint of edge enhancement. Regardless, this is a striking presentation that suits the film well. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
Sony delivers a fine if understated TrueHD presentation. The film’s highlight is the finale, delivered in the midst of a crowded arena. Individual yells from the fans can be heard in specific channels to great effect. The soundtrack delivers much of the bass, although the fighting doesn’t give much to the LFE channel to decipher. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]
Director Mamet and UFC star Randy Couture start things off in the special features department by delivering a commentary track. Four featurettes, including a fine interview with UFC president Dana White about MMA in general is excellent for newcomers. There’s a so-so making-of in there as well. A Q&A session runs nearly a half hour with Mamet. Fighter profiles and rather useless BD Live connectivity are forgettable. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Extras]