Directed by: Rod Lurie
Premise: Erik (a fictionalized version of real life journalist J.R. Moehringer), an up and coming sports writer (Josh Hartnett) discovers a homeless man (Samuel L. Jackson) known as “Champ” who claims to be “Battling” Bob Satterfield, a former boxing superstar. Erik writes a story about Champ that becomes a runaway success but only after he has accepted money and fame does Erik begin to question Champ’s story.
What Works: Resurrecting the Champ is an extraordinary film, one of the best films to deal with an athlete because, as one of the characters in the film points out, the story deals with someone who never quite made it to the top and after years of abusing his mind and body in the sport, he has been discarded. Hartnett finally finds a role in which he fits and he is able to convey Erik’s hunger for success and his attempts to maintain his integrity in an industry where ethics and truth can be slippery. Erik’s relationship with his son (Dakota Goyo) is very well done and it anchors the cost of the Erik’s decisions, giving them some authentic weight and consequence, as he risks damaging his standing in the eyes of his son. The theme of father and son relationships permeates the movie and this is a great tale about how parents and their children shape one another. The star of the show is Jackson as Champ and for the first time in recent memory, Jackson steps out of his badass persona and gets to act as a completely different kind of character, one who is frail and complex but not stupid and retains his dignity even while he lives on the streets and misleads the hero.
What Doesn’t: The flashbacks to Champ’s fighting days are not as well done as they could be. The film misses the opportunity to play with the subjectivity of memory in the film medium, which could have pushed Resurrecting the Champ from a good film to a great film.
Bottom Line: Resurrecting the Champ is a sold film. It is similar to what Sylvester Stallone aimed for in Rocky V and Rocky Balboa or what Clint Eastwood attempted in Million Dollar Baby, but Resurrecting the Champ’s multilayered story and great performances make it a better film than any of those.
Episode: #154 (August 26, 2007)