Redbelt (2008)

(In theaters, May 2008) David Mamet makes very personal films, and that can be a boon as much as a problem depending on the end result. In some ways, Redbelt is a perfect follow-up to films such as The Heist and Spartan: all take place in rough milieus, featuring laconic men to exemplify Mamet’s idea of solid masculinity. All involve aspect of crime and deception. But what worked so well before seems overblown and unnecessary here: As a martial-arts instructor is conned into participating in a tournament, the plot twists itself beyond logic and plausibility, showing the heavy hand of the screenwriter as characters are manipulated toward a specific end. The film itself feels long and dull, Mamet’s hypnotic dialog not making the film any easier to take seriously. Even the ending, with its unconvincing staging and abrupt conclusion, fails to do much to redeem the rest of the film. I suspect that Mamet fans will find much to like, but viewers unwilling or unable to adapt to Mamet’s particular way of seeing things may not be so lucky.

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