A martial arts instructor in Los Angeles sees his bad luck turning around after a series of unrelated events. The other shoe drops, though, and soon he’s forced to practice what he preaches outside of the ring.
This is admittedly something of a cheat as “Redbelt” had a theatrical release and is pretty widely available via streaming. It still hasn’t been seen by nearly enough people and, more importantly, it’s not often you get the chance to include David Mamet on an action movie list. The action is good and understated as it often unfolds quickly and efficiently rather than being turned into a big set piece. The only real exception is a terrifically gritty and methodical end fight. Mamet’s film might not constitute an action movie to some, but he crafts it with an interest in — and appreciation of — the sincerity of martial arts practitioners. Honor is a part of most action films, but here it flows through the film’s veins in the form of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s lead performance. His respect for jujitsu puts him at odds with competition for profit, and the character’s journey to staying true to that belief is a fascinating one. Die-hard martial artists watch the film for that aspect, and the rest of you should too in addition to enjoying a typically strong Mamet cast including Alice Braga, Emily Mortimer, Ricky Jay, Max Martini, Jake Johnson, Tim Allen, and more.