Director: David Mamet.
Screenplay: David Mamet.
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tim Allen, Alice Braga, Emily Mortimer, Rodrigo Santoro, Joe Mantegna, Ricky Jay, David Paymer, Max Martini, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ray Mancini, Jose Pablo Cantillo, John Machado, J. J. Johnston, Jack Wallace.
After the arguably awful “Spartan”, writer/director David Mamet delivered this. It could be called a genre picture but if you know Mamet, you’ll know he doesn’t really follow conventions.
Mixed-martial-arts instructor Mike Terry (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has money problems. He could earn $50,000 in a competition, but honour precludes him from fighting for money. Then a series of chance encounters leaves him no choice but to step into the ring.
The film opens dramatically, introducing several of it’s key characters in quick succession and manages to maintain this drama for a lenghty period. In fact, for almost the entire film. The acting is marvellous with Chiwetel Ejiofor’s central, dynamic performance a real highlight. He’s a fine actor, deserving of more major leading roles. As always, David Mamet’s dialogue is sharp and natural, helping his characters come to life. At first, so many strands to the story are introduced, with no explanation, before eventually bringing them all cleverly together. Mamet is known for his writing skills and again they are on display here. Despite the undeniable power though, as it progresses, it starts to veer toward the formulaic side (which I suppose is difficult considering it’s subject) and ties it’s many strands up rather quickly, in a nice red bow (or quite literally ‘belt’). It was far too neatly done and gave the feeling of being rushed, letting down an otherwise superb film.
Although flawed, it’s still absorbing and one of David Mamet’s better films. It’s not a major demerit but I found it to be a bit short, I was enjoying it so much that I could have done with an extra half an hour. Then again, maybe there is no higher compliment than this.