DVD of the Week – ‘Redbelt’ – August 26, 2008

Adult dramas get lots of respect but struggle for audiences in a film culture targeted at teens and video-gamers. Genre films films get no respect but lots of ad dollars and, usually, big audiences. When genre films aim for adult sensibilities, they usually wind up with neither. That’s surely what happened with David Mamet’s Redbelt, a classic fight film relocated from the boxing ring to the world of Jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts with the hero’s journey of a samurai adventure. The film never really got the respect it deserved or the audiences it should have, but it’s pure Mamet. As I wrote in the Seattle P-I: “David Mamet’s stage reputation is built on his glorious dialogue, pushed far beyond any sense of realism into a verbal symphony of intertwining solos built on staccato bursts of profane words elevated to terse poetry. But when it comes to Hollywood, his most interesting films are his genre picture – heist films, murder mysteries, con movies, all generally male-centric narratives that he reworks with his own brand of professional pride, machismo and male honor. It’s a man’s world and he revels in it.”

Redbelt - Learning the moves
Redbelt - Learning the moves

It’s glorious pulp fiction elevated to genre art, full of Mamet’s cynicism about the corruption of big business and his romantic ideals of men dedicated to a higher purpose, and defined by Mamet’s trademark dialogue and his distinctive take on the machismo of the fight film genre: the confidence of strength, the courage of modesty, and the professional grace of a fighter who uses the least amount of effort and movement to achieve his goal.

The DVD does the film justice, with featurettes that take the film and its ambitions seriously (the onstage “Q&A with David Mamet” hosted by Kent Jones at a New York screening of the film, is just the thing that Mamet fans will love), and featurettes that delves into the art and culture of Jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts (just the thing for fight movie fans).

I review DVD in my MSN column here. I also interviewed star Chiwetel Ejiofor for GreenCine.

Also new on DVD this week: the Blu-ray debut of the classic 1938 swashbuckler The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn:

Filmed in the rich hues of 1938 Technicolor, which seems to glow from within, helmed by the quintessential Hollywood artisan Michael Curtiz (who gets co-director credit with William Keighley), and set to the rousing strains of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Oscar winning score, this is a celebration of studio filmmaking and old fashioned craftsmanship at its most stirring.

The complete DVD review is here.

Here’s a digest of the other DVD releases featured on my MSN column:

Movies: Morgan Spurlock’s docutainment comedy Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?, Uwe Boll’s aggressively, recklessly, fearlessly and foolishly tasteless comedy Postal, and the delightful Son of Rambow:

Two unlikely school boy buddies, a wide-eyed naïf in a repressive religious sect (Bill Milner) and a belligerent school troublemaker (Will Poulter), team up to shoot a wildly imaginative sequel to “First Blood” on a home video camera, circa 1982, in Garth Jennings’ fanciful, funny tale. Jennings captures the innocent ecstasy of youthful imagination unleashed and the elemental power of cinema: the violent war movie inspires an expression of affectionate fantasy and friendship.

TV: Entourage: The Complete Fourth Season (aka “The Making of Medellin”), The Shield: The Complete Sixth Season (aka “The Wrath of Vic Mackey”) and the abbreviated Heroes: Season 2:

… even if it never recaptured the zeitgeist of that dynamic first season, Kring and his creators spin a dense web of superhero conspiracy adventure and deliver the most visually exciting show on TV.

Special Releases: Westerns Classics Collection (with the John Sturges films Escape from Fort Bravo and The Law and Jake Wade), Errol Flynn Warner Bros. Western Collection (with Virginia City) and The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector’s Edition:

The playfully macabre humor of Tim Burton is deftly brought to life through the old-school magic of stop-motion animation by director Henry Selick…. Selick turns Burton’s original story and fanciful sketches into fully realized characters and walks that fine line between comedy and horror while maintaining the sense of wonder instilled by the pumpkin-headed Halloween king.

The weekly column goes live every Tuesday on MSN Entertainment.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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