We cannot consider Redbelt without considering Never Back Down. The films were released within the space of two months, and one (Redbelt) is the adult/art-house version of the other (Never Back Down). Both star famous African actors (Chiwetel Ejiofor in Redbelt, Djimon Hounsou in Never Back Down); both stars play martial-arts masters; both masters have in them a moral hardness that has its origins in precapitalist communities; and both masters struggle to maintain their moral values in a world that is corrupt, that has no sense of truth or depth, and that endlessly pursues the next amusement, sensation, or illusion. Never Back Down has a very happy ending; Redbelt has an ambiguous ending.

Mike Terry (Ejiofor), a Gulf War veteran, is married to a beautiful but frustrated Brazilian woman, Alice Braga. She wants her honest husband to sell his soul and make more money. Commitment to the old codes of martial arts is hurting his business, a jujitsu studio in Los Angeles. But the codes give him something that money entirely lacks: a coherent center. Even if some of his actions do not provide the desired or best results, he does not want to dissolve his moral certainty.

The film as a whole is not satisfying. The society of the spectacle turns out to be too simple, too obvious, too easy a challenge for a man who draws all his moral strength from the age of the heroes.