For one of the recent spate of Christian-themed films turning up in multiplexes, “Carman: The Champion” is shockingly understated in pushing its evangelical agenda. But that and its strange inclusion of the star’s name in its title are about the only remotely unusual touches in what is a very standard sports movie/inspirational drama.
Carman, the one-named king of Christian pop music, stars as Orlando Leone, a former cruiserweight boxing champion who turned his attention to taking over his father’s ministry after that crushing defeat. His big dream was also his father’s–to expand the ministry to include a shelter to help troubled individuals get on their feet. The problem is, Orlando doesn’t quite have the finances to make the expansion a reality, even while moonlighting as a hotel security guard.
It is while on duty at that second job that Orlando that an opportunity arises to achieve all his father wanted to do. One night, the current cruiserweight champ Keshon Banks (Jeremy Williams) just happens to take a room at Orlando’s hotel and throws a very loud party. A calm verbal attempt to get Keshon to quiet things down ends with Orlando knocking the champ out with a single punch. Given all the ensuing media coverage, it’s a no-brainer for one of Keshon’s promoters, Freddie (Michæl Nouri)–who also happens to be Orlando’s brother–to try to get these two into the ring.
Of course, Orlando does eventually decide to partake in that one last bout, but not before director Lee Stanley and the writers (one of whom is Carman himself) manufacture complications to up the dramatic ante. Orlando courts and eventually gets engaged to fetching single mom Allia (Patricia Manterola), whose son (Romeo Fabian) is involved in some shady business with drug dealers. Allia is not too keen on Orlando putting on the gloves again, especially after he comes out of a beating at the hands of said drug dealers a bit worse for wear.
The boxing sequences are competently staged and choreographed, and the presence of pay-per-view pugilism announcing team of Steve Albert and Bill Boggs adds to the authenticity. Such touches are nice if ultimately moot, for the outcome is never in doubt. Then again, the outcome and things like Carman’s generally stiff acting are all secondary to the film’s pretty well-embedded spiritual message, which is, in a nutshell, “keep the faith.” Given how commonplace that sentiment already is in secular sports films, “Carman: The Champion” preaches only to the converted, for there is little, if anything, of interest to general moviegoing audiences.