David Mamet: "[Redbelt] not a martial arts movie"

The director's film - which debuts nationally on May 2nd - is less about martial arts and more about the story of one man's difficult predicament and choices. Notable quote:

David Mamet is back. For his upcoming film, the legendary writer/director will tackle a brand new subject, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, using clichéd cinematic genres as his training ground: the classic under-dog fight movie, the samurai film, and the spaghetti western. Sure sounds different, and boy, is it. "Redbelt", opening on May 2nd, follows an honor-bound Jiu-jitsu master sucked into the nasty worlds of Hollywood and mixed martial arts (MMA) prize fighting, simultaneously.

Mamet didn't pick these fighting techniques merely because MMA happens to be the fastest growing sport, having eclipsed boxing and spreading like wildfire among the young, male demographic. No, Mamet himself has been practicing the art of jiu-jitsu, a philosophy as well as a fight style, for over 5 years. But the writer/director ("Wag the Dog", "Heist", "Spartan", etc.) stressed that "Redbelt" "is not a martial arts movie". Instead, he insists: "The movie is about a guy who doesn't train fighters to compete, but he trains fighters to prevail... He is forced to participate in a competition and therefore he puts aside that `vow of poverty', or higher calling."

Mamet's work is generally exceptionable, so one is likely justified in believing this will be a decent movie by critics' standards. Certainly it will be a quantam leap ahead of other recent MMA-themed movies we've been treated to this Spring. My only point here is not to judge Mamet's film without seeing it, but to suggest that there's still a cinematic middle ground available: I doubt this movie will do much in the way of bringing sophistication and honor to the sport of MMA, although I don't think it will do harm either. That still leaves open the possibility of making a movie about one fighter's struggles in and out of the crucible of the sport where the sport is still the focal point of the movie. There is no end to the number of movies which treat the sport the story centers around like this. Mamet likely didn't go out of his way to protect the image of the sport as he's more interested in making a decent flick. I'm certainly not suggesting a MMA movie that tries to improve the image of the sport will necessarily be bad, I'm just saying that aforementioned protection isn't Mamet's chief aim and therefore a third way between "Redbelt" and "Never Back Down" is open.

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