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Film / Redbelt

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Sondra Terry: You think it was noble? The code of the warrior. You think it's noble?
Mike Terry: No, I think it's correct.

Redbelt is a combination martial arts/crime film written and directed by David Mamet and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor. Mamet called it an homage to the Samurai Films of Akira Kurosawa, though it is shot in a decidedly modern fashion. Considering Mamet's years of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu experience and the involvement of numerous martial artists, including Bruce Lee's successor Dan Inosanto and MMA legends Randy Couture and Pat Militech, the movie should have been an accurate portrayal of Mixed Martial Arts, but has been criticized for relying on ludicrous scenarios and cinematic maneuvers.


This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: The main character escapes a standing rear naked choke by running up a wall and doing a backflip. Technically this could work if the person applying the choke is really trying to keep it standing and, over all, is holding a really loose choke. A 5th degree black belt like John Machado, when applying the choke, would have in real life dropped to the ground and put his hooks in to stay on Terry's back.note  Even without his opponent using his legs, it's more likely that Terry's escape would have ended up like this in real life.
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  • Artistic License – Sports: The film features a very antiquated and ill-informed version of Mixed Martial Arts. The main character is offered a chance to fight on the undercard of an event for a flat $50,000, though real fight purses are divided into a "show purse" for fighting and a "win purse" awarded only if the fighter wins. Also, the plot revolves around the concept of implementing randomly-assigned handicaps before each bout, which would never fly in the real world. The promoters state that the whole point is to make the handicapped fighter lose, but if every fight was determined by a randomly-assigned handicap, no one would bother watching. It defeats the entire point of athletic competition. Also, a system that handicaps fighters would never get past any athletic commissions, which do not allow fighters who cannot defend themselves properly to compete.
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  • Code of Honour: Ultimately the specifics of the mixed martial arts world are secondary to this; the central theme of the movie is the struggle of a man trying to live with a strict code of honor in an era that no longer believes in such a thing.
  • Dan Browned: There were a number of experts consulted on the film, and this fact was touted in promotional materials, but they were mostly old-school MMA fighters, and they have little interaction with the modern version of the sport. Overall, the film gets very little right about MMA or the fight business.
    • There are a great many reasons why the marble gimmick could never catch on or be legally practiced in the United States. The most glaring reason is that no athletic commission would allow competitors to fight handicapped, with an arm tied down.
    • Chiwetel Ejiofor's character is offered on opportunity to make his MMA debut days before the event begins. There are numerous reasons why this would and could not happen.
    • Ejiofor is offered an outrageous sum of money for a debuting, unknown fighter on the undercard. The sum is also not divided into show/win purses. It's apparently a flat fee, whether or not he wins. Only on rare occasions do headliners work out special deals that do not include win purses, and it's usually in exchange for a percentage of the event's profits.
    • Given that Mamet is himself a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purplebelt, you'd expect the pure BJJ portrayed in the film to be accurate, but it's not without implausible sections to the trained eye. When Ejiofor fights John Machado, the BJJ technical advisor for the film, his character goes for a rear naked choke from a standing position, which is a very poor tactic with a low chance of success.
  • Martial Pacifist: Mike Terry, who refuses to fight for money, lest it sully his warrior spirit.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The 'handicapped' matches.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: After suddenly being snubbed and ripped off by some Hollwood types, the main character desperately tries to figure out what's going on. He finally discovers that it's all about a laughably impossible scheme to fix Mixed Martial Arts matches.
  • The Voiceless: Taketa Morisaki, the Japanese MMA champ scheduled to fight at the climactic event. The character is played by Enson Inoue, who is American-born and speaks Japanese with a significant accent.
  • Warrior Poet: Mike Terry

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