film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Born a Champion 2021 * * * Stars


"Protect yourselves at all times". Ain't that the truth. That's especially inherent when drawing bloodied hands in the realm of white-knuckle jujitsu. 2021's Born a Champion delves into this system of unarmed combat training. The film feels a little direct-to-video but in these trying times, what doesn't.  

"Champion" is a violent sports drama. It is cut from original cloth and pigeonholed with a TV feel. It's not based on a novel or a magazine article but on a story concocted by its lead actor (Sean Patrick Flanery). As something about an American black belt fighter who seeks revenge on another fighter who almost ended his life, Born a Champion is akin to a jujitsu version of Rocky (or any of its sequels). The main character is even named Mickey and he's got a "cut" about his eye. Natch.

Born a Champion saddled with good intentions, does a lot of research in regards to the art of jujitsu fighting. And I'm sure star Sean Patrick Flanery had a lot to do with it. As grappling brawler and family man Mickey Kelley, Flanery completely disappears into the part. We're talking a change in voice, a change in weathered appearance, and a change in body type. Sean channels his inner Mickey Rourke here because he almost looks the way Rourke did in the late 80s (or early 90s). This is not the same guy I remembered from Powder, Suicide Kings, or 1999's Body Shots

The fight sequences in "Champion" are adequate, the locales are isolated, the direction by Frenchman Alex Ranariveto is standardized and scorching, and the acting is a little C-list had it not been for Flanery's disciplined transformation (and Dennis Quaid's reliable supporting performance). Bottom line: Born a Champion's diegesis unfolds steadily like a blanket. It is good enough to not "tap out" early. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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