September 8, 2008
Redbelt and 88 Minutes
David Mamet, martial arts, and a cast to die for (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Emily Mortimer, Tim Allen, Mamet regular Ricky Jay, Alice Braga, David Paymer, Joe Mantegna and more!) should add up to one fine movie. Redbelt, however, disappoints. Let's just say that Mamet has stacked his deck with a little too much coincidence and allowed himself an ending so full of macho sentimentality that you'll be torn between the urge to hoot or puke.
The film is full of the usual Mamet deceptions, which, if you're new to his movies -- which include the superior House of Games through The Spanish Prisoner and Spartan -- might make you sit up and take notice. But if you've seen many of them already, your eyes may start to droop. And plotwise -- including the set-up, climax and finale -- you can be forgiven for wondering if you're sitting through the teen movie Never Back Down all over again, with adults having taken over the high-schooler roles. Maybe it's time Mamet tried another adaptation like his terrific film of The Winslow Boy.
Al Pacino, whose new film with director Jon Avnet (Righteous Kill) opens later this week, made another Avnet movie earlier in '08 that came and went like the speed of light. 88 Minutes -- might make you imagine that it at least offered a shorter running time than its 108 (!) minutes, most of them silliness squared. We're in familiar serial killer territory, and while the movie is relatively light on blood and gore, it still gloats on the terrorizing and snuffing of women. This by now grows increasingly stupid and pointless, and 88 Minutes is a flop.
Several good-looking and talented actresses surround Al (Deborah Kara Unger, Alicia Witt, Amy Brenneman and Leelee Sobieski) and all work hard to add meaning and urgency to the proceedings. That everyone fails, Pacino included, is due more to the story and screenplay by Gary Scott Thompson (The Fast and the Furious, natch) than to any individual performance or to Avnet's direction. But, finally, the movie is so ridiculous and unbelievable that it is almost more fun, in its own dumb way, than the Mamet.
Posted by cphillips at September 8, 2008 12:39 PM