David Mamet – master of the con trick and rapid fire verbal jousting, writer of award-winning plays and respected political commentator – pulls a rabbit out of the hat by making a martial arts movie with a moral code and a storyline that’s nicked from a Jean Claude Van Damme flick.
Martial arts instructor Mike Terry’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) touchstones are honour and moral upstanding, but personal integrity don’t pay the bills – as his accountant wife constantly reminds him. At least Terry’s students, goofy cop Joe (Max Martini) and on-edge lawyer Laura (Emily Mortimer), give him respect. However, their desire to not bring dishonour on the nearly bankrupt jujitsu academy lands Terry in deep trouble when an action-star (Tim Allen, who surprises in a dramatic role) and his producer (Mamet regular Joe Mantegna) enter the frame.
Mamet studied jujitsu for five years and his love of the sport is clearly demonstrated in numerous instruction scenes, but he must have been hit over the head a few times too many, as there is something trite in a story in which a worthy teacher is undone by the harsh reality of Darwinism, only to morally triumph in the end. It’s worth watching however for the myriad of intriguing characters’ performances, and to witness what happens when cynic Mamet goes Bruce Lee on us.
Selected release from Fri 26 Sep.