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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Semper Fidelis

Born a Champion (2021) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Marine Sgt. Mickey O'Sullivan having lost his best friend on tour in Desert Storm changes his name to Mickey Kelley (Sean Patrick Flanery)—to distance himself from his absent father—and leaves the service. He studies Jiu-Jitsu under renowned Prof. Renzo Gracie and takes up teaching it in California. On a flight to Dubai to be a guest instructor, he meets the love of his life Layla Boudreau (Katrina Bowden) and settles down with her in San Pedro. With a baby on the way, he returns to Dubai for a tournament to win some needed cash. The other guy cheats and he gets trounced.

Having no other real options to help provide for his kid he returns years later, against medical advice, for an unofficial rematch. A Pyrrhic victory ensues with a fateful accident leaving him mad at God.


Both Mickey and Layla knew within ten minutes of meeting, sitting next to each other on the air­plane, that his or her seat­mate was “the one” to marry. Indeed, Layla “a real nice young lady” had given up her first class seat on an over­booked flight so a Mrs. Miller could move forward to join her loving husband on their 50th wedding anniversary—they'd met in Dubai—while Layla took her seat in economy next to Mickey. Likely the newly-met couple took this as an omen that their own marriage would be long and prosperous, as per, (Prov. 18:22) “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.”

Furthermore, the older couple's marriage would necessarily be traditional having been effected long before the U.S. started mucking about with the institution. For that matter Mickey & Layla's dreams can be taken within the frame­work of what marriage has been from time immemorial, their meeting having occurred in-flight over inter­national waters. For a proper definition of marriage, I'll quote Dr. Ide: “The Con­tem­por­ary Christian stan­dard was defined not by the bible but gen­er­ated by Roman law as defined by the jurist Modes­tinus who argued that marriage was ‘consortium omnis vitae, divini et humani iuris communi­catio: a life-long part­ner­ship, and a sharing of civil and religious rights’” (83–5). So far, so good.

Bible in handTheir wedding took place in Bay 2 of Cholo's Auto­werks, presided over by Mickey's bff, tattooed tinkerer “Taco.” Prof. Tamara Metz has recounted, “Reporter Rachel Lehmann-Haupt review[ing] the growing trend of couples turning to close friends and family to officiate at their weddings, facilitated by the easy, online availability of free, instant ordination” (109). Taco officiated with a Bible, in the name of Jesus, and by the power vested in him. We note that he did not say power vested in him by the state. He was not licensed to perform weddings, nor was there any official paper­work, but so what? Tribal societies like Dubai likely didn't use official licensing out in the desert, nor do a lot of societies, nor did most until recently. Won't stop God from bestowing his blessing, although it could cause red tape problems in some situations.

Mr. Miller was initially given first class seating on account of the seat being better for his ailing back, then Mrs. Miller was graciously offered the seat next to him so they could be together, this according to the proverb above, “obtain[ing] favour of the LORD.” When Mickey was hospitalized for his head injury, his “wife” Layla would not be accorded family visiting privileges as she was not officially his wife. But that wasn't God's fault. Layla being a para­legal should have known there are legal niceties to be observed.

It gets worse. Prof. Metz informs us of “the case of polygamist Tom Green: he ended up in jail for violating Utah's laws against plural marriage, even though he and his ‘spiritual wives’ scrupulously avoided legal recognition for their unions. The state prosecuted Green for misusing the marital label, even in its extra­legal form” (4). Within the U.S. we dare not apply the term wife to Layla even though that's what she is in a wider context. The domestic partner­ship now receives the marital label in toto, which once had to be accompanied by joining in what Orthodox Christians call a domestic church, and the Catholics call matrimony. Weird.

God isn't overly concerned with legal status in this matter. The problem was with witnesses. There weren't any. The narrator says, “Neither of them had any real family to speak of.” Mickey seemed to have only one (best) friend, Taco, and that was it. Para­legal Layla was not one to schmooze with the models her firm sent overseas—she was added as a favor. Other­wise, she would have known there was a quid pro quo expected once she got there. Consequently, there was nobody to invite to their wedding and they had it sans witnesses. It was done in a garage bay with easy public access, so they could have just conscripted two from the street as happened in the 1935 British film, “Lazybones.” Witnesses are the sine qua non of weddings. Two official ones are required at the very least. It's ironic here as it took place in a shop specializing in Volks­wagens, German for “people's car.” Taco gave them a VW beetle for their wedding present. It's not just fighting that has dangers, but driving is dangerous, too. Especially in a light vehicle with not much power in the engine or steel in the body. The trailing tin cans alert the public there's a newly wed couple inside. But Taco just fixed up the interior.

Mickey taught his kid to pray to Saint Sebastian the patron saint of soldiers and athletes, and he prayed to him, too. But the marriage was not presented to the heavenly realm, as in, (Matt. 16:19) “what­soever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and what­soever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” because there were no witnesses to establish it. So it's not God's fault, their lack of divine protection.

They were neither a domestic partnership as far as the state was concerned nor a domestic church as far as the saints were concerned. She was merely a domestic and he a provider, and they named their boy “Kyd” much as Tarzan and Jane had named their kid “Boy.” And it's a jungle out there.

Production Values

applying makeup” (2021) was directed by Alex Ranarivelo. It was written by Sean Patrick Flanery and Alex Ranarivelo. It stars Katrina Bowden, Dennis Quaid, and Sean Patrick Flanery. Flanery gave a sappy performance—he cried a lot. Bowden was gorgeous and dressed like a TV mom with not a hair out of place. As a couple they argued over the man's fighting career but made up right away and other­wise were peaceful and passionate. Their boy had a punk hair­cut and was given short lines. No stunt doubles were used in any fight or sparring scenes.

MPAA rated it R for language throughout. The story is told from the stand­point of one inter­view of a person who speaks English moderately well and rambles a bit. The cinema­tog­raphy was decent, but the score was lame. The trailer gives some Marines footage absent from the feature itself.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

This movie delves into the difference between martial arts for self-improvement/self-defence and for competition. We are encouraged to really care about the characters, not just about their fighting styles. The bad guys seem hopeless at first but some harbor surprises. It takes its own narrative path rather than rehash old successes. Real-world fighting more often than not ends up on the ground where Jiu-Jitsu comes into its own, but stand-up fighting looks better in the movies.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homo­phobia and Hetero­sexism in the Flood Story and its Writing. Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.

Lehmann-Haupt, Rachel. “Need a Minister? How about Your Brother?” New York Times, 12 Jan. 2003, late edition, sec. 9, 1+. As quoted in Tamara Metz.

Metz, Tamara. Untying the Knot: Marriage, the State, and the Case for Their Divorce. Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton UP, 2010. Print.