Plot: What’s it about?
Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejifor) is a skilled and respected master of Jiu-Jitsu, but his school hasn’t been much of a success. He has the pedigree to make it work, but money has been tight and the school faces a potential closure. The chances for income abound for Mike, but his personal choices make it difficult to pursue those options. His most obvious venue is to enter a mixed martial arts tournament, which promises quite a financial windfall. But Mike believes that to fight in such a manner is against his beliefs, so he refuses. Then he meets washed up action star Chet Frank (Tim Allen), who lures Mike in with promises of cash for some work on his latest movie. That backfires on Mike however, when he shares some of his training techniques with Chet, only to have them stolen and himself left out in the cold. Now Mike faces a more dire situation than ever before, but will he hold fast to his ideals, or do what he has to in order to provide for his family?
I was kind of surprised when I found out David Mamet had directed a movie about mixed martial arts, but Redbelt turns out to be a great addition to Mamet’s resume. This is a Mamet movie to be sure, so while there is some action, the real focus is on the internal battles we all face. Mamet’s writing is just as it usually is, complex and explorative, going beneath the surface to uncover inner truths about the characters and the world they inhabit. The mixed martial arts element is well handled, Mamet is able to work within that culture and make it believable, so the sense of realism is palpable. The cast is impressive as well, with Chiwetel Ejifor, Tim Allen, Emily Mortimer, Alice Braga, Ricky Jay, and others, including some faces that mixed martial arts fans will recognize. Redbelt walks a fine line, able to tell a story about a man involved in a sport, without falling into the usual genre cliches. So Redbelt earns a high recommendation, especially with this Blu-ray release.
Video: How does it look?
Redbelt is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a solid all around transfer, with clean visuals and good depth, but it doesn’t stand out as a top tier release. The image has some light grain, but that is acceptable here and sharpness is fine, it just doesn’t have the raw detail visible that I’d like. I found colors to be on the mark however, with bright and natural presence, while contrast is accurate and performs well. Again this is not a bad transfer at all and ranks as above average, it just isn’t on the same level as the top Blu-ray presentations.
Audio: How does it sound?
This Dolby TrueHD 5.1 option is better than I expected, with natural and effective presence. The fight scenes are what light up the speakers, as you can almost feel the impact, thanks to this soundtrack. The music also sounds great, with deep bass and a lot of life in this mix. The more reserved scenes have good presence also, thanks to natural use of the speakers to enhance the atmosphere, which adds a lot to the experience. As this is a Mamet picture, dialogue has a good deal of the focus too and the vocals are clear and error free. This disc also includes French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Thai language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, Arabic, and Dutch.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The main attraction here is audio comments from David Mamet, who is joined by UFC legend Randy Couture. As expected, Mamet dominates the session, revealing his passion for the world of mixed martial arts and sharing general behind the scenes insight on Redbelt. Couture remains silent most of the time, but comes to life when the fight scenes kick in and is able to provide his expert perspective in that area. You can also watch a couple interviews with Mamet, an interview with UFC mouthpiece Dana White, video profiles of the film’s featured fighters, a brief featurette on Cyril Takayama’s magic, and the film’s theatrical trailer.