PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 September, 2008, 12:00am


Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tim Allen, Emily Mortimer, Alice Braga

Director: David Mamet

The film: Playwright-turned-filmmaker David Mamet rarely - if ever - misses the mark. And the American is at his best when he is allowed to weave his intricate examinations of the human condition.

Mostly, he strips bare the relationships between his characters. And such is the case with Redbelt, perhaps his most assured directorial effort so far.

Mamet tips his hat here to a classic film noir in the style he leans on and also to the themes much loved in the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa and Yoji Yamada.

The ever-impressive Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a Brazilian jiu-jitsu master who moves to America with his wife and strives to stick to teaching the martial art - and to the code to which he believes those who learn such skills should dedicate themselves. What he's up against, though, is the might of the dollar - and the commercial forces of the sometimes barely legal modern fight game. Those forces want to make use of his skills for their gain - and will do anything to draw our man into the game.

And so Mamet presents a character steeped in honour, who seems powerless as that honour is stripped away. He falls in with the likes of a Hollywood action hero (played straight as you like by funnyman Tim Allen, above) trying to play it hard for real and finds circumstances are suddenly out of his control.

In true noir tradition, Mamet paints his picture many shades of grey. No one is beyond getting their hands a little dirty, it appears, even our hero, if he is pushed hard enough.

It's almost always about the dialogue with Mamet and once you see how the action and training scenes play out it will come of little surprise that the director has been practising martial arts for a number of years.

Ejiofor takes on the lead role with such power that he dominates the entire film - and it's all the more watchable for this. Mamet has created a character we can feel for - and an often savage tale about the realities of modern-day sports.

The extras: On DVD, Mamet's films always put a lot of effort into bonus material. The commentary sees cast member Randy Couture drawing out some great background material from the director, plus details on character and plot development that give a good insight into how he works. That happens too on the Q&A session with a cinema audience, and with the look into the making of the film. You walk away learning, not just having heard how wonderful everyone is. On other featurettes you get an insight into the world of martial arts and the mixed martial arts fighting scene.

The verdict: Mamet at his best.