Redbelt (David Mamet, 2008)

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Re: Redbelt (David Mamet, 2008)

#76 Post by LavaLamp » Mon Jan 13, 2014 11:17 am

Just saw Redbelt for the first time, and truly enjoyed the film. Superb. I've never been a Tim A. fan (and never liked HI), but he's quite good here, which is surprising.

I understand the comparison to The Spanish Prisoner, though Redbelt definitely takes a different approach to the subject of being conned...Not sure which film I like best, but I'll have to watch both again at some point, due to the storylines being somewhat convoluted/complicated.

I liked how the instruction that Terry was giving in the beginning of the film was something he himself put into practice at the film's climax - well-done.

It was interesting to me that, in the very beginning (when the Emily Mortimer character walks in to the dojo), Mike Terry & Joe are intent on taking off her coat. I understand she came in from the rain & they're trying to make her comfortable - however, she was obviously agitated/nervous & if I had been them, would have definitely given her some space instead of crowding her. I completely understand they were trying to calm her down, but obviously they went about it the wrong way. This led to her accident that set off the unfortunate chain of events. Granted, if she hadn't done this there wouldn't have been a film. Note that I can easily see an event like this occuring, but I do find it interesting that the two characters weren't intuitive enough to realize they shouldn't get too close to her, considering her state of mind at that point...

Also interesting is that though her initial accidental action did indeed set off the chain of events, that seems the only thing that wasn't planned by those who conned both Mike Terry & Joe.

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Re: Redbelt (David Mamet, 2008)

#77 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Oct 24, 2020 10:58 pm

I loved this a great deal more on a second viewing. Mamet's skills at forward momentum without spoonfeeding the viewer is in congruence with Spartan's construction, but the rhythm makes room for spiritual mindfulness in addition to a comfortable velocity of plot and gradual character development. Chiwetel Ejiofor's protagonist is a fascinating one- he rejects a certain kind of fight on principle because it adds rules to the concept of a fight that only has one, while he has many hard principles that could be translated as a cage of rules. A lesser film would have been about a contradictory character, a meditative man whose rigidity is perceived as a flaw or even hypocrisy, but instead Mamet understands that he is self-actualized and doesn't need to explain what may seem puzzling to the untrained eye. His way of life is honest, he's grounded to a higher power of goodness, and what he feels is 'right' cannot be explained away with simple logic. The prison he's in isn't one of his own design but the natural order of a man with morals and convictions battling against the rest of the world which has alternate ones.

Mamet also reflexively uses classic cinema rules to tell a classically molded story. A man doing the best he can, who trusts in humanity, is going to struggle, but that doesn't mean that Ejiofor's way of life is incorrect. His empathic actions to Mortimer accrue reciprocity in a potential lawsuit that speaks volumes to his code before dark forces propel him to shed his own rules diluted down to one cause, ironically in the ring that he believes has too many. It's such a phenomenally elastic composition that identifies greyness in the world without shaming principles, allowing enough space to celebrate them without mutual exclusivity. Like any challenge to a way of life, there is an opportunity for growth, and Ejiofor's perspective is flexed consequently. What's key is that this briefly occurs in a moment toward the end where Ejiofor asks about why he was damned with a hot watch and the answer is thrown back in his face that he shares responsibility for what he did, or suggest to do, with it; but this pales in comparison to the audio-less virtue-exist that ends in a slap to go back, take action, and still retain that conservative core. This is Mamet's most emotionally-resonant film, honest in its worldview with realistic martial arts philosophies and practices, while still following a path of entertainment born from artifice; a synthesis of truth and craft. And for those who dislike the ending, I think it's one of Mamet's best, completely in step with both its cinematic influences' cathartic climaxes and a gratifying symbolic karma of gratitude for living a spiritually-fit life, applying philosophy into activity empowered through commitment.

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Re: Redbelt (David Mamet, 2008)

#78 Post by nitin » Sun Oct 25, 2020 8:42 am

Do you think the ending makes any sense on a narrative level twbb? It works thematically but I genuinely think it has huge narrative holes (which admittedly bothers me more in this film than that sort of stuff usually does).

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Re: Redbelt (David Mamet, 2008)

#79 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Oct 25, 2020 11:26 am

Absolutely, though I think theme and narrative go hand in hand in this case, so it’d be helpful to know what specific “narrative holes“ you’re referring to because it’s possible I’m not considering something
Starting with the reveal of the con, Mike’s intuition about the artifice of staged fights is validated as worse than he even expected. This demonstrates thematically that venturing away from his connection with a higher power, that determines what he feels to be ‘right’, is going to yield trouble, but narratively it exposes a bitter truth that Mike’s path of action throughout the film has also been one of both righteousness and complacency.

We discover that the antagonists repurposed Mike’s white/black ball variable, designed to randomize chance to reinforce the rule-less naturalism of a real fight, for the polar-opposite effect: to fix the fights for money. We learn that his wife sold him and the cop out to stay financially afloat. Mike has been ignoring the importance of money throughout the film, which is fair to his own character, but the problem is that he’s been ignoring the importance of money to everyone else too, and there’s a difference in that the latter ignorance also blinds him to the way the world works and sets him up to be bested like a fighter apathetic about his opponent’s behavior.

In a sense he’s behaved like the ball-trick, embracing an ethereal stance of chance in a milieu that demands no chance. So when he takes the ‘high road’ again at the end and walks away to isolate himself from his environment once again, Mortimer slaps him because she sees that his conscious action also doubles for a retreat to chance when he can also choose to act within that system he despises to achieve moral high ground, rather than simply attain such a status by avoiding it.

This also contradicts his teachings with Mortimer, who was repressing her rape without stepping up to face the uncomfortable triggers and learn to defend herself within a world of violence, which Mike knows will only leave her statically in a traumatized path of non-action. “There’s no situation that you cannot use to your advantage” is a core piece of his wisdom, and he has- like everyone to some degree- been infallible by refusing to engage with certain situations out of principle, which have resulted in catastrophic consequences.

This aligns with the concept of agency as an onion peeling back layers of sobriety about oneself- Mike has been taking action all along and living a complacent existence in certain respects, which isn’t damned by Mamet or considered hypocritical as much as it’s another spiritual learning experience. The relentless commitment to facing his opponents at the end is uncomfortable for this character, but it’s also the action most aligned with his principles to the art and his values together at once, that isn’t an ‘easier’ one of non-action. Sure, it also fits in with the artifice of movies- big fights, getting the respect of his idol with a tangible gesture- but it’s also completely fitting within the wide narrative arc.

The final image is bittersweet, almost religious in its iconography of spiritual catharsis, because Mike has transcended another barrier within his character to awaken to a further degree of self-actualization within the same stable framework, and yet this doesn’t undo the suicide of his partner, or change the deceit by his wife, or the world around him that compromises for superficialities. However, that willingness to move forward persists, and now that he’s reached the ring and stops physically moving, Mike must sit with all of the diverse feelings and realities mixed in the same soup, and still retain gratitude from the complex acceptance that he is acting in accordance with his definition of righteousness, or God. He’s one step closer to being the pure form of the man he is at heart, reinforcing the truism that he has always lived through being a positive force in his milieu. Or since reforming his old behavior of drinking and violence, which are only hinted at but make this a film that can be read synonymously as an allegory for the spiritual program of recovery for rehabilitation in humanity.

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