5.12.2009

Ju-Jitsu as a Metaphor for Life

I watched Redbelt, last night. Due to my adoration for Chiwetel Ejiofor, it's been on my radar for awhile now. The problem is I have to be in a certain mood to watch dramas or I will simply not enjoy them. Being that I went home early from work, yesterday, feeling none to well, I figured what the hell. So I laid back in ye olde recliner, queued up Netflix through my 360 and Redbelt just called to me. I have to say, I am glad it did, as it was an excellent ride the whole way through. I am going to get a little spoilery, but I will try not to give away any of the big shockers.

Mike Terry (Ejiofor) is a Brazilian Ju-Jitsu instructor that approaches the form with a level of zen and admiration I haven't personally seen in films in a long time. Unfortunately, passion for your work doesn't keep the lights on and Mike is out of money to pay his bills. What transpires as the movie progresses is, to one extent or another, a save the rec center film taken deathly serious. It has all you major plot points of such a film. You have the teacher who doesn't want to sacrifice his values to pay his bills. You have the betrayal by someone close to you. Finally, you have the hero painted into a corner and forced to compete against his wishes so the evil man can get paid. Seriously, from a purely plot point of view, you have seen this movie a thousand times.

What made Redbelt so compelling for me, though, was Chiwetel. The guy is captivating to watch and I do not think I have ever seen him in a role that I didn't feel convinced by. From Serenity to American Gangster to this, Ejiofor is an absolute chameleon of an actor. You never see him as an actor playing a role; you just see the character, every time. It seems like so few actors do that, anymore, and I am noticing that a large percentage of those that can are not American. I don't know if it's because Europe is a place where theater is still appreciated by the masses or what, but a lot of my favorite actors, right now, originate from across the pond.

To a lesser degree, I also want to give credit to Mamet and his script. The lack of any insultingly obvious exposition was refreshing to say the least. People seemed to talk the way people really do talk, which is bad if you aren't good at some basic comprehension, but good if you are. One scene in particular showed two people talking with the camera at a distance and when their conversation ends, you know exactly what was said despite the fact that we weren't allowed to hear a word of it. If you've been paying attention to the movie, you didn't need to hear it. I liked that simply because I am sick to death of being spoon fed everything in movies, lately. Give me something to figure out on my own so I can keep my mind engaged.

I won't go so far as to say Redbelt was a great movie, but I can say with certainty that it's in my top ten "Save the Rec Center" flicks. The plot isn't anything ground breaking, but the execution by all involved was good enough that you never get bothered by that fact. I liken this movie to something like Punch Drunk Love, wherein someone took the character Adam Sandler always plays and made him grounded and real. Redbelt is like that, except that idea is applied moreso to the plot. Taking something that is overdone and cliched, only to make it feel fresh and interesting is an admirable feat in my book.

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