One of the challenges of being a great artist is that not all of your art is going to be great. The Beatles wrote several songs that lesser acts would have turned into careers, but that nonetheless lack the power of "Yesterday" or the joy of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand"; George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier is an excellent work of journalism, but not nearly as good as Homage to Catalonia. Redbelt, the latest film from writer-director David Mamet, is not as impressive or thought-provoking as some of his other dramatic works, like Glengarry Glen Ross or House of Games or Oleanna; at the same time, it's an exciting, engaging mix of drama and action supported by an immensely appealing lead performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things, Children of Men).
Redbelt's subject and setting may make it seem incongruous -- Why is one of America's greatest playwrights making a film about mixed martial arts and Jiu-jitsu? -- but it's actually in keeping with Mamet's other recent entertainments like Spartan, his work as a co-creator of The Unit and his pseudonymous work on the screenplay for Ronin. Redbelt fits in with these projects: They have a kind of heroic stoicism under them; they're stories of honorable men in a dishonorable world. They've all got a kind of muscular poetry, too, a hard-bitten nobility that's still a little sad about the edges.