Had an unexpected couple hours free this afternoon, so I jetted over to the AMC to check out the new Mamet film. I dig the man, mostly, and I’d heard this movie featured a bunch of real-life blackbelts and fighting experts. So I was curious.

Redbelt is extraordinary.

It’s about how hard it is not to fight, especially when you know how. It’s about destiny, and the tension that comes from resisting one’s fate. It’s about protecting ourselves from the things that prey on us, and how, in doing so, we often become the predator.

I can see why Mamet made the film; he’s a man with incredible technical skill as a filmmaker, and there’s no question that the big studios would be happy to get him to sign on to a big budget film. But Mamet believes in the art, not the dollar. I’d love to know the projects he’s turned down. Like Mamet, the hero of Redbelt, Mike Terry (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) turns away opportunities for easy money, believing that the art of combat is about being pure. “The hardest part is the first part: You must leave the outside, outside,” he says.

Tim Allen has a great-but-small role as the egomaniac star with a tragic flaw, who comes into Terry’s life and turns it upside down. I can’t tell you much more because, like most Mamet movies, the film is full of twists and turns. I can say that in this film Ricky Ray doesn’t do any prestidigitation, which is too bad, but Chiwetel Ejiofor turns in an incredible performance. It’s hard to believe he isn’t a real blackbelt. But there are plenty of real fighters here, like UFC champ Mike Goldberg (lots of gruesome close-ups on his cauliflower ears), Dan “The Wolfman” Theodore, Ensen Inoue, Dan Inosanto, and even Boom Boom Mancini!

I poked around on the internet, and I see that I’m the only person who loved this movie. I appreciate how Mamet has managed, better than anyone other than Bruce Lee, to film the beauty of martial arts–not in the way it looks, but in the way it thinks. The way it is about using one’s mind to understand movement and physicality. I’m not likely to say I’m wrong because so many folks dislike the movie, but I am likely to say that they just didn’t get it. This is a great, great movie. I wish more people would see it.

Boom Boom Mancini-Warren Zevon (live)

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