Review by Gary W. Tooze
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Portuguese: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 and Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1
English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Indonesian, Korean, Thai, Arabic, Dutch, none
50GB Blu-ray Disc
with David Mamet and Randy Couture
• Behind the Scenes (19:08 HD)
• Inside Mixed Martial Arts (18:52 HD)
• Q&A with David Mamet (Kent Jones) - (26:20 - 4:3 - 480)
• Interview with Dana White
• Fighter Profiles
• The Magic of Cyril Takayama (4:35 HD)
Disc: 50GB (single-layered)
Released: August 26th, 2008
Standard Blu-ray case
"Redbelt" is the story of Mike Terry (Chewitel Ejiofor), a Jiu-jitsu master who has avoided the prize fighting circuit, choosing to instead pursue an honorable life by operating a self defense studio with a samurai's code. Terry and his wife Sondra (Alice Braga) struggle to keep the business running to make ends meet. An accident on a dark, rainy night at the Academy between an off duty officer (Max Martini) and a distraught lawyer (Emily Mortimer) puts in motion a series of events that will change Terry's life dramatically introducing him to a world of promoters (Ricky Jay, Joe Mantegna) and movie stars (Tim Allen). Faced with this, in order to pay off his debts and regain his honor, Terry must step into the ring for the first time in his life....
In “Redbelt,” David Mamet has taken a sturdy B-movie conceit — a good man versus the bad world, plus blood — tricked it out with his rhythms, his corrosive words and misanthropy, and come up with a satisfying, unexpectedly involving B-movie that owes as much to old Hollywood as to Greek tragedy. That may sound like a perilous combination, but the film’s visual moderation, contained scale and ambition keep it well tethered. It’s a fight film, purely if not simply, which of course also means it’s about the struggle to live.
There is no struggle initially for Mike Terry (the excellent British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor), an almost messianic Los Angeles jujitsu instructor with a grave sense of purpose. With his mouthy wife, Sondra (Alice Braga), Mike runs a small Brazilian jujitsu academy in a nondescript part of town. He has money troubles, but also loyal students like Joe (Max Martini, strikingly effective), a cop with financial worries of his own.
Video: NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.A competent but not stellar looking 1080P transferred film. It may have much to do with the straightforward manner in which it was shot - Mamet avoiding any stylistic exaggerations that might distract from the narratives inherent integrity. The transfer seems without flaw aside from a greenish haze to some of the scenes. It is frequently dark and saturated and this Blu-ray seems to export the more subtle values of Redbelt. An atypical film that may be in direct contrast to those seeking a standard; brighter, cleaner, sharper image from their 1080P transfer. This probably looks very close to how it did theatrically. It's consistently strong - far superior to SD - but, perhaps because of the film's bland manner it lacks the pristine quality visage of other modern transfers - not much here will 'Wow' you. There are not a lot of close-ups although Mamet does occasionally take advantage of the 2.40 widescreen (I actually measure it as 2.39:1). Technically it is dual-layered (the feature takes up just over 29.7 Gig) and shows a background noise exists to a minor degree. I don't see evidence of any DNR filters or edge enhancements. I hope the large screen grabs can give you a good idea of how it will perform on your system. The Blu-ray gave me a very satisfying presentation of Redbelt.
Audio: The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 gives decent range and is most memorable for some of the drum beats opening the film and later on in Redbelt. There are subtle background noises - mostly the crowd scenes at the end - and the fight in the bar. It seemed dynamic enough when infrequently called upon. I enjoyed the original music score by Stephen Endelman. There are a number of optional DUBs offered and we can assume this Blu-ray is a region-free (confirmed on another site). There are optional English (and many other- including French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Indonesian, Korean, Thai, Arabic and Dutch) subtitles available.
Extras:I'll assume these are duplicated on Sony's, simultaneously released, SD edition HERE (although some of these Blu-ray featurettes are in HD). Another informative and intelligent commentary from Mamet - coupled with Randy Couture. Lots is covered and there is some relaxing chitchat - but that can also be interesting. There are some featurettes - a 20 minute Behind the Scenes in HD has tidbit soundbites from cast and crew plus the likes of others in regards to Ju-Jitsu. Pretty good fare. Inside Mixed Martial Arts is just less than 20 minutes, in HD, and focuses more on the sports and competition aspects. I quite enjoyed the 25 minute Q&A with David Mamet - hosted by Kent Jones. It further exemplifies how sharp Mamet is intellectually. There is an advertised Interview with Dana White, some Fighter Profiles and 4.5 minutes on The Magic of Cyril Takayama (in HD) - the Japanese American magician who plays Jimmy Takata in the film - an important plot device role that barely has 5 lines. Overall - excellent and extensive stuff!
BOTTOM LINE: Another wonderful Mamet experience. His film's have this organic simplicity coupled with some staggering twists and noir-esque plot devices that often define a film as his very own. His insistence of metonomic-line delivery adds his unique pacing to the narrative. One that, I personally find, frequently requires some suspicion of disbelief or, at least, subtle acceptance. There are wonderful touches such as Mike's pushing glasses with alcohol away from him and I LOVED the swipe at Hollywood frailty and rampant insincerity. Really Redbelt has so much going for it - but I honestly required the second screening (with the commentary) to extract all the pertinent information. Many will enjoy the samurai-infusion. Perhaps the questions Mamet frequently raises are intentional ones. Regardless, he remains one of my favorite directors/writers working today. Ohhh... nice to see his 'muse'/wife Rebecca Pidgeon, even in such a small role, and I often listen to her solo albums on CD. Ditto for Mamet regulars like Joe Mantegna and Ricky Jay. The Blu-ray format gives a strong presentation of a great film and add on the extras and competent audio and I suggest this 1080P package is strongly recommended!
August 19th, 2008