Contemporary Christian singer Carman (who wrote the original screenplay for this movie) plays Orlando Leone, a retired boxing champion who’s devoted his life to preaching the Word of God and heading up a youth ministry in inner city Los Angeles. Ten years have slipped away since his last professional match. Now he finds himself being dragged, kicking and screaming, back into the ring. He’s got no business going back, after all, the doctors have told him that if he gets hit in the head one more time, he may die. But he’s facing both a carrot and a stick. The "businessman" who set up the comeback match threatens to kill his mother if he doesn’t fight (he’s already dispatched Orlando’s dad). Also, Orlando’s estranged brother offers to fund his new youth center if he goes through with it. Meanwhile, small-time drug dealers are gunning for him since he’s trying to clean up the neighborhood. And then there’s Allia, the beautiful young single mom Orlando can’t help but fall in love with. It’s like his policeman friend says, "There’s nothing like a tall, brown woman to make a preacher man lay down his Bible."
At this point I could interject any number of Rocky jokes, but you’d have already heard them. I’ll leave it at this: If you’ve ever whiled away a perfectly good evening pondering just what would have happened to Rocky Balboa if he’d given his heart to Jesus somewhere between Rocky III and Rocky IV, Carman: The Champion is for you.
positive elements: Outside the ring, the majority of the film focuses on Orlando’s love for the Lord, his love for his ministry and his love for kids. His life in consumed with getting kids off the streets and into the gym and into church where they can learn what being real men and women is all about. His blossoming love for Allia is chaste and respectful. It is also learned that Orlando refused to throw a fight when he was the champion.
spiritual content: Orlando is "the preacher." He prays a sincere prayer to the Lord. His small congregation is shown singing praise choruses. "God bless you," Orlando says to a new volunteer at the youth center—and he means every word. When a kid steals a bag out of Orlando’s truck, Orlando chases him down and drags him back to the church. There he handcuffs him to a chair and makes him listen to the sermon. Later, that kid explains to his mother, "He’s a boxer, Mama, a world champion." "He didn’t hit you, did he?" queries his mom. "No, he made me go to church." Orlando tells his flock that "God does have a perfect plan for your life."
nudity and sexual content: Orlando’s boxing rival, Keshon Banks, lives loud and loose. It’s implied that he goes through women as fast as workout towels. He’s shown cuddled up with two women on his private jet. He throws a wild party in which one woman gets up on a table and dances suggestively. Low necklines and high hemlines plague a few scenes. A woman lounges in a bikini.
violent content: Intense boxing violence dominates a good quarter of the film. Blood runs from competitors’ faces. Livid bruises circle their eyes. Sweat flies as the cameras zoom in for the kill. Elsewhere, drug dealers set Orlando up, then try to shoot him up. Bullets fly. Cars race. In the end, the bad guys wind up dead, their vehicle crashing and exploding. Before that, those dealers rough up a kid they’ve coerced into delivering crack. Working as a security guard at a hotel, Orlando punches out Keshon Banks when the inebriated Banks tries to take a swing at him. A gang of Banks’ buddies take baseball bats to Orlando’s SUV (Orlando’s subsequent visit to the ER indicates that those bats were used on him as well). The aging Orlando’s not sure he can compete again, telling Allia that one of the things that starts to go is your "killer instinct, the part of you that says, ‘I’m going to go in there and tear that guy’s head off.’" A black and white flashback scene shows the death of Orlando’s father. He is hit with a car, his body bouncing over the vehicle and smashing into the asphalt.
crude or profane language: Keshon shoots a commercial for a sports drink named "Whoopa--." That term is both said and displayed numerous times.
drug and alcohol content: Keshon and his partying friends drink booze on several occasions. One party gets so wild that revelers begin smashing bottles against the walls. Keshon sips champagne. He also gets a little rough with his girlfriend when he gets drunk. When Orlando tells a friend that he’s going to get back in the ring, his buddy responds, "Hey, what you been smokin’ man?!"
other negative elements: It is strongly implied that gambling money funds Orlando’s new youth center. That’s particularly troubling in light of the fact that Orlando says more than once that he has faith that God will provide the money he needs when he needs it. Granted, Orlando didn’t place bets on his own match, but he accepts money from his brother who did. Moviegoers could easily deduce, therefore, that if someone is convinced God wants them to start a new ministry or build a new outreach center of some sort, they should turn a blind eye to where the money comes from. The ends should never justify the means. God should never be reduced to the level of cosmic bookie. The Almighty does not need Las Vegas to fund His work.
conclusion:"What Hitchcock would do is take a normal man and put him in extraordinary circumstances, and then watch how he tried to maintain his normalcy through those unexpected situations," says Carman. "So instead of taking a normal man and putting him in an abnormal circumstance I decided to twist it and take a godly man and put him in an ungodly environment. The point was to watch him struggle to maintain who he is through the entirety of the movie."
And that’s exactly what the world needs more of. Films that depict godly men dealing with real life situations. Orlando turns out to be an excellent role model (aside from accepting the gambling money at the end). He graciously extends God’s love and grace. He’s brave without being arrogant. He’s kind and gentle without coming across as wimpy. Unexpectedly, Carman, the singer, turns out to be a pretty decent actor. He’s no Harrison Ford, but if memory serves, Sylvester Stallone wasn’t a crack shot actor when he filmed Rocky either.
Carman: The Champion demonstrates that it is possible to make an engaging action/sports film without including profanity and sex. Families should consider the levels of violence before snapping up ringside seats, but Carman’s foray into the movie world should win him quite a bit of applause.