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Pleasingly nuts
By GRAHAM FULLER  |  May 7, 2008
3.0 3.0 Stars
Chiwetel Ejiofor and John Machado

Not quite a neo-noir, still less a martial-arts movie, David Mamet’s taut, dank drama has a foot in each camp. Paul Schrader–like in its fatalism, it’s about a West LA jiu-jitsu fighter and self-defense master, Mike (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who refuses to save his business by competing because that would compromise his purist principles. He has one fateful encounter with a strung-out lawyer (Emily Mortimer) who steps out of the rain one night to ignite a crisis, another with an action star (Tim Allen) who draws Mike into his circle with tragic consequences. Surrounded by vultures — promoters, fight throwers, a loan shark, a sleazy producer (Joe Mantegna, compellingly deadpan) — Mike is eventually forced to partake in a MMA bout. The climax, which kicks all expectations in the jaw, is pleasingly nuts. Despite Redbelt’s recognition that few can be trusted, and its disgust with Hollywood leeches, the moral reckoning is optimistic for Mamet. 99 minutes | Kendall Square

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