Owain Paciuszko 03/10/2008
From acclaimed playwright and scripter David Mamet comes this simple yet affecting tale of a man sticking to his principles.
This man is Mike Terry played by one of the greatest actors living today; Chiwetel Ejiofor. Terry teaches mixed martial arts, he's struggling to make the payments and his wife is subsidizing his business through her own small company. One night Terry saves Hollywood actor Chet Frank ('Home Improvement' and 'Galaxy Quest' star Tim Allen) from a bar-room brawl and the actor soon begins turning Terry's life around. This leads Terry into some bad situations, yet at all times he remains accepting and passive, abiding by the code of his own ju-jitsu teachings.
It is riveting, thanks almost entirely to Ejiofor's performance, watching Terry being put through the wringer. The mistakes he makes are so blatantly sign-posted as bad choices that it becomes even more gut-wrenching as an audience member to watch him make them, this ultimately leads towards a finale that - again - is hoisted out of cliche and made compelling by Ejiofor's acting. Mamet's script is uncharacteristically tight-lipped, reflecting the inner-peace of Terry, all the chatter coming from those around him (and a fine supporting cast there is as well; featuring Emily Mortimer, Joe Mantegna, Ricky Jay and David Paymer).
There's nothing new happening here, but it happens so well and Ejiofor is so completely believable and watchable that you just wish he would be handed more lead roles, because he is one of the few actors around who is good no matter what material he is handed. He was the saving grace of 'Serenity' in my opinion, providing one of the most chilling villains in a long time, he was a welcome addition to the modern masterpiece 'Children of Men', a fantastic sidekick for Denzel Washington in 'Inside Man' (I hope he's back for the sequel!), and then there is his heart-breaking and magnificent starring role in the brilliant 'Dirty Pretty Things'.
I know this has basically turned into a review of Chiwetel Ejiofor, and a gushing one at that, but this is a fine film, playing with the emotions effectively and delivering a great, stirring finale. A nicely polished little gem.