Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Harnett turn in knockout performances in this powerful tale about fathers and sons and the power of redemption.
Struggling sports reporter Erik Kernan (Josh Hartnett) encounters a homeless man who calls himself “Champ” (Samuel L. Jackson) only to determine that he is the one-time boxing champion Battling Bob Satterfield. What begins as a story about resurrecting a once-great man becomes Erik’s title shot. In his journey to uncover the truth, Erik has to re-examine his own life and his relationship with his young son.
Loosely based on a Los Angeles Times Magazine
story by J.R. Moehringer, Resurrecting the Champ
is a heartfelt, thematically ambitious drama that attempts to work on several levels, and mostly pulls it off. On one level it's the story of a sloppy journalist named Erik Kernan (Josh Hartnett) who learns a painful lesson in humility when he's forced to confront his own shortcomings as a father and a sportswriter. On another level it's a richly human tale of redemption between the flawed reporter who's desperate to match his late father's professional reputation, and a former boxing champion (Samuel L. Jackson) who's now a homeless drifter on the streets of Denver, Colorado. When Kernan seizes on "The Champ" as the kind of personal, humanitarian story that could give him a much-needed career boost, he falls into the trap of his own ambition, making a professional mistake that threatens to ruin his career forever. While attempting to impress his 6-year-old son (Dakota Goyo) and win back the respect of his estranged wife (Kathryn Morris, from TV's Cold Case
), Kernan is groomed for celebrity by a sexy Showtime executive (Teri Hatcher), but must ultimately get his values and priorities in order. Resurrecting the Champ
emerges as a surprisingly thought-provoking study of professional and personal ethics, with some equally compelling observations about the modern state of journalism-as-show-business. Directed with a delicately sentimental touch by former film critic Rod Lurie (The Contender, The Last Castle
), Resurrecting the Champ
lacks the sharp focus that could've made it a modest classic, but it's a welcome relief from the mindless mayhem of big-studio blockbusters. Lurie's careful handling of the material is blessed by excellent performances by Hartnett and Jackson, with stellar support from Morris, Alan Alda, David Paymer, and especially Peter Coyote, almost unrecognisable under old-age makeup as a veteran boxing reporter who sets Hartnett's character on the road to redemption. --Jeff Shannon