Prepare to be disappointed. Prepare to be very disappointed. 'Redbelt' talks a good fight in the tagline but falls short in the ring.
Mike Terry (Ejiofor) is a mixed martial arts expert. He takes life very seriously and his craft is sacrosanct to him. His wife Sonda (Braga) is struggling to run a textile business while part-funding his, though they've hit hard times in spite of her best efforts. But the arrival of a stranger on a rainy night, coupled with a chance meeting with a star, is about to change their fortunes. Lawyer Laura Black (Mortimer) stumbles into Mike's martial arts centre while on a late-night drive in an attempt to feed her prescription drugs habit. After allegedly trying to "shoot" Mike's cop friend Joe (Martini), Laura is left at the mercy of those in the room.
Later Mike pops into a bar while on the hunt of a loan. By chance movie star Chet Frank (Allen) has dropped into the same bar, luckily for him. When a crowd of heavies take exception to the star, Mike steps up and single-handedly (and with very little drama) silences them all. Chet is impressed. He sees fit to befriend the martial arts expert, lavish gifts upon him and wine and dine him and his wife. But all good deals must have a catch and Mike soon finds himself in a sticky (and all too predictable) situation.
'Redbelt' promises intrigue, a tangled web of interwoven stories, drama, action and suspense. What it delivers is below par on all of these fronts. The myriad of subplots never knit together, making the journey seem quite aimless. Furthermore, the preachy tone (it's all about the honour, don't you know) of the movie pushes it more than slightly over the clichéd line.
And if you're thinking that the martial arts element might make it watchable then don't get too excited on that front either. There's very little drama or excitement attached to what goes down here. The action feels stilted and the acting seems a little forced, with the exception of Emily Mortimer, who plays the jumpy, paranoid addict fairly convincingly.
To say 'Redbelt' is a strange film would probably be one of the kindest things you could say. It's disjointed, lacking in decent drama and just plain odd. If you were filling out a report card on this, based on your previous knowledge of David Mamet's work as a filmmaker, then you'd be ticking the 'could try harder' box in double-quick time.