I’m an unabashed fan of writers who make life difficult for the audience. People should have to pay attention to what’s being said by the characters in the shows and movies they watch. And quite frankly, unless even I’m winded by the speed at which people talk I just don’t feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth. No one in movies or shows talks like real people do, so I at least appreciate it when a writer shows a sense of flair when creating their own unrealistic dialogue.
So, as you would imagine, I’m a big fan of both Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet, with the second of the two behind Redbelt, the movie we’re looking at today.
Redbelt, both written and directed by Mamet, is the story of a martial arts master, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is reluctantly dragged away from teaching into professional fighting after he saves a macho movie star, played by Tim Allen, from getting pummeled in a bar fight.Ejiofor’s character has bills to pay and a family to support, so he takes up the gloves once again as a means to do the right thing for those who depend on him, thus setting up the moral quandary he’ll be in as he finds the fight business stocked with opportunists and shady dealers.
I don’t think I liked this poster much the first time I saw it but taking a second look I can see now a little better what it’s going for.
The one-sheet shows Ejiofor standing over a down fighter, looking a little shocked and confused as to what just happened. A crowd stands in the background looking on and above them hovers a promotional poster for a fight, though you can’t make out the faces on that poster so you can’t tell if one of them isEjiofor as well.
The entire image, save for the two characters in the foreground, are horizontally blurred, creating the sense that everything has just happened moved too fast to be controlled and everyone is just becoming aware of it. The title treatment streaks across the middle, with some faint red shading coming from either side, creating an ever-so-subtle red belt effect.
While I do like the poster now more than I did graphically than when I first saw it I still worry that it’s not doing a great job of presenting the story of the movie to audiences. There’s no clear intent shown byEjiofor’s character since he doesn’t look triumphant but instead regretful over what has just happened. It’s as if Sony Classics tried so hard to find a graphic that incorporated the fight poster in the background that they weren’t mindful to convey the story of the movie to those who saw this one-sheet.
The one thing it gets unequivocally right is the highlighting of this coming from Mamet as both a writer and director. That’s sure to have appeal to fans of his plays and previous movies as well as, to some extent, a more general independent film-minded audience.
The first trailer that was released did little to actually feed my enthusiasm for the movie. Yeah, everyone looked like they were turning in good performances and yeah the story was explained clearly enough. But what was missing was any reason to see THIS movie, and for a good part of the audience I think that reason is going to be Mamet and his distinctive style. There was no rhythm or flow to the spot, especially not any that the audience would associate with the man behind the camera.
The second trailer is much, much better at conveying the Mamet brand. Different aspects of the story are on display here, specifically those aspects that we have come to expect from the writer. Everyone’s got their own agenda, people are obviously playing each other to achieve an end and there’s one person in the middle of it all who is no less guilty than the others but who is trying to adhere to his own moral code. This is a much more attractive spot in large part because it sells the movie not a fight film but as a morality tale.
I’m confused as hell by the movie’s official website. When you bring it up it’s all bubbles and bright colors, like someone tried to model it after the site for the Ocean’s movies or something. The brand is completely inconsistent with the poster and the trailers and really just had me shaking my head.
The content of the site is nothing all the extraordinary. “Cast and Crew,” “Gallery, “Synopsis” and “Trailer” are all just what they sound like. There’s also “Links” that links out to a couple of stories featuring David Mamet, the soundtrack that features music by Mamet’s wife (and frequent star) Rebecca Pidgeon and then a handful of links to sites associated with Mixed Martial Arts, the sport highlighted in the movie.
All in all it’s very disappointing. Though for a minor release like this it’s not that surprising that the site would be so lackluster.
I should have loved this campaign. It should have worked for me from beginning to end considering how much I enjoy Mamet’s work. But while a few elements of it do come across as compelling – specifically the second trailer – overall it feels mishandled and inconsistent. There’s no one brand identity that’s communicated and that, more than anything, is what kills this campaign.
I don’t expect the campaign to compete with the same intensity of Iron Man or even Made of Honor, but it should make a stronger push for those not just seeking alternative viewing in the suburbs but for those truly independent moviegoers who are turned off by the whole slate of bland studio output. Instead it feels like they didn’t know what to do with it when it came to assembling a campaign and so threw a bunch of strategies against a wall, picking whatever seemed to attract their eye.