Redbelt, written & directed by David Mamet, is not your typical martial arts movie...it has very few action scenes. In fact, calling it a "martial arts movie" is a bit belittling, as it is first and foremost a drama. While it started extremely slowly, I ended up getting drawn in and loving it.
Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mike Terry, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor barely making ends meet. A series of unfortunate events increase the financial burden on Mike and his wife, Sondra. While Mike is a talented fighter, he refuses to participate in any kind of fighting competitions, as they have commercialized something he deems pure.
While seeking Sondra's brother (who just so happens to be a fight promoter) to ask for another loan, Mike is able to defend actor Chet Frank (well-played by Tim Allen) in a bar fight. The two become friends and Mike is hired on as producer of Chet's latest movie.
The rest of the story involves extremely-surprising twists & turns, which force Mike to enter the ring in competition. I am refraining from detail to avoid any possible spoilers...there are a number of different sub-plots, but the masterful storytelling really shines as things never become convoluted.
The acting is top-notch as well. This film is Chiwetel Ejiofor's first lead performance, and he proves he is more than capable. After seeing him in Dirty Pretty Things, Four Brothers, Serenity (where he plays the most mild-mannered, evil villain I have EVER seen), & Children of Men, I must say that I am a fan of his. Tim Allen does a great job with his first serious role (no Tim "The Toolman" here!), and Emily Mortimer does a great job as a quirky lawyer who becomes entangled in the plot after some odd occurrences.
After seeing some of the forum posts on IMDB (i.e. "worst movie ever", "Garbagebelt", "This movie is PURE CRAP", etc.), I understand that this is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of movie. If you're expecting a brain dead beat-em-up, you will be disappointed with Redbelt. However, if you're able to enjoy slow-paced, thought-provoking movies, I think you will enjoy it. With its story of fighter honor & dignity, similar to the old Kurosawa films, I cannot recommend it highly enough!