About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Redbelt

Seen Tuesday May 20 at the Clearview 1st & 62nd St., Auditorium #5, 2 slithy toads

The new David Mamet film. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a mixed martial arts gym owner who gets involved with a Hollywood star and a fight promoter and a this and a that and a lot of other things. It's both an ungainly mess and a perfect example of compensation in the creative arts, where you have something really good going on in one place that helps make up for the really bad things that might be going on someplace else. i.e., John Grisham's THE FIRM doesn't have a great ending, but it has a fantastic beginning.

Here, the good thing is the lead performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor. He believes every line he says, he radiates sincerity about every aspect of the situation he finds himself in, and he commands the screen with every fiber of his being. The only problem is that things don't make any sense. Pardons in advance for any spoilers, but the people who are out to get him are out to get what, exactly? This is not an uncommon flaw in Mamet's writing for film. The webs he weaves can be so complex that they tangle themselves. I recall The Spanish Prisoner as another film of his with a really wacko plot with Steve Martin given the task of putting it over. So Chiwetel Ejiofor doesn't have anything except a gym with very few customers and no cash. So we find out his wife has sold him out, but to what purpose? The ending is some spiritual MMA hokum that doesn't do anything to address the human good v bad elements of the plot, and it was greeted with hoots of derision at the showing I saw. My sister told me this "so, was EVERYTHING a scam, from the get-go? like...the
wife sending him to the brother to ask for money that
first night...was the tim allen character being there
and getting beat up, so the "hero" could defend him,
was that part of some elaborate set up?
Emily Mortimer was actually good...just anorexic."
and I responded thus:
All excellent questions that don't hold up. All part of the plan that Emily Mortimer shot a bullet thru window? If it is some giant scam, for what? To humble M Terry for some long ago slight, to repo the gym, to have fun? Not aimed at him at all but in order to get the cop to kill himself so he won't sue the bar owner for back wages. But Chiwetel's performance is so stolid that he carries the movie along all the way on the force of his personality alone to its nonsensical end."

But yet I enjoyed the movie for the duration that I was watching it. It's only 99 minutes, it has a great central performance, and more often than not it is done with great conviction. I can't recommend it, but I wouldn't recommend against, either, I don't think, so long as you go in with eyes open.

As a coda to my brief comments on Narnia: Prince Caspian, I thought Richard Roeper and Michael Phillips hit the nail on the head.

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