Redbelt - DVD Review

'with an assist from my pasta salad, Redbelt therefore scores bottom marks'

Ever taken note of how your current mood can effect a review when you come to write it and post it? I must say I never have but given that I was already prepared to write a particularly detrimental review for Redbelt (a film I had high hopes for), the fact that my exhaust has just fallen off my car (which I only listed for sale two days ago) and the fact that I’ve just found a hard bit in my pasta salad, I can’t claim that this review is going to dwell too much on the positives and can only apologise in advance for what may appear to be a particularly cynical outlook on the world at large.

My problem with Redbelt is it is one of those films, by one of those Directors (in this case David Mamet), who likes to dip his toes into the waters of modernism and post-modernism, but come out of the other side completely dry.

Without delving too much into the detail of modernism and post-modernism (which will probably bore everyone to death rather than depress you to death, which as previously stated, this review makes no apologies for) both kind of deal with the fact that a story is a construct and nothing really follows a set path of chapters or scenes or has a beginning, middle and end in that logical order. Of course there are many more characteristics to them but my favourite running definition of them was provided by a professor associate who said; ‘always remember modernistic tales have a beginning but no end, post-modernistic don’t have either.’

Anyway, the point of all this in relation to Redbelt is that Mamet really wants to tell a PM or M tale about an honourable guy (the admittedly excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his ‘path of the righteous man, beset on all sides by the evil’ etc etc. In the end he starts off telling a regular filmic tale which has a start, introduces some characters, plays around with a bit of intrigue and then ends making no sense whatsoever and giving no conclusion to the mysteries introduced at the start which weren’t that intriguing to begin with. It’s almost as if Mamet didn’t decide to make a modernist film until he was half-way through shooting a regular tale, which of course you can’t do because it completely undermines both constructs.

So what you end up with is a half-finished story, with a ridiculous amount of loose ends, directed by someone who doesn’t appear to understand basic storytelling. And (…to continue what is fast becoming a rant, rather than a review) it isn’t as if he hasn’t got previous form. I seem to remember Heist and Spartan being similarly entertaining in places, but having similarly confused structures which didn’t lend any benefit other than allowing everyone associated with the film to mention the ‘wordy’ word ‘post-modernism’ in every promotional interview they did (I’m don’t think this is a fact but it is beneficial to put it in my review here, so I’m going to follow Mamet logic and do it anyway).

If there’s one thing that bugs me overly about film-making it is so-called ‘critically acclaimed’ films which go out of their way to be ‘different’ but end up completely undermining their status as a film. The fact that Redbelt has a top critic rating of 67% on RT, suggests that Mamet hasn’t even accomplished this to the degree expected. Mainly down to this, but with an assist from my pasta salad, Redbelt therefore scores bottom marks and can’t even be saved by Ejiofor nor by Emily Mortimer who hasn’t impressed me up to now but in Redbelt comes close to what can only be described as spellbinding, captivating and generally fantastic.

If you’re going to tell a story, following any construct, please do it properly and with a whole-hearted dedication and conviction to what you are doing. If you’re not, kindly leave me in peace to fix my exhaust and sue my local supermarket for what I am quickly coming to suspect is a piece of plastic lettuce.

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