Focussing on family for many years after, the video of his defeat goes viral when it is shared through forums in the late ’90s. When the public demands a re-match his chance at redemption comes knocking on his door.
Like many of these films, family is as important as the sport is itself. The love of this sport is shown through Flanery, as he is himself a black belt in karate and Brazilian jujitsu. But it’s the small but impressive cast that provides relatability in the film. Wife Layla (Bowden), their son Kyd (Charlie T Flanery), and best friend Rosco (Compte) are Kelly’s drive and support throughout the film. The heart-warming aspect of a man with impressive talent within jujitsu, feeling as though he can’t provide for his family, is Kelley’s main drive.
Set during the 1990s the film uses the interview style of narration well. It feels like a mixture between a sports documentary and a fictional film. It adds to the amazing cast's humble and loving nature, mirroring Kelley’s character. This clever writing and visual style add to the emotion you feel for Kelley and his needs as the film goes on. Finally, in the end, it’s the attachment to Kelley that brings the story home.
Not only is Flanery amazing in his portrayal of Mickey Kelley, but his part in writing the screenplay is commendable. It is a well-paced film that brings highs and lows in what feels like Kelley’s life story. The themes of resilience and purpose are strong throughout and maintain the idea that Kelley is not only good at jujitsu but also a good person. A ‘hero’ you want to see do well.
While at times it can come across too strong that he is a good person, such as the beginnings of his relationship with Layla, the encounter between Kelley and Mason (Quaid), or the story of how he became friends with Rosco. It does still feel necessary to explain why Kelley is the way he is. His motivations and ideals are just as important as the story itself. And as the supporting cast mirrors our hero, the subtle transformation of Mason’s opinion of Kelley, solidifies him as a true champion. To put himself through what he has needs to be explained to understand him better. And ultimately, they achieved that.
Overall, BORN A CHAMPION finds itself up there with some of the great sport-action dramas. It proves itself by mixing the love of the sport with family, hardship, and resilience. Alex Ranarivelo and Sean Patrick Flanery are a great team and bring this simple yet heart-warming story to our screen.
Born a Champion is available on DVD through Eagle Entertainment on September 9, 2021.