NPR logo 'Resurrecting the Champ'

Arts & Life

'Resurrecting the Champ'

Josh Hartnett and Samuel L. Jackson in 'Resurrecting the Champ'

Josh Hartnett and Samuel L. Jackson in Resurrecting the Champ. Yari Film Group hide caption

toggle caption Yari Film Group
  • Director: Rod Lurie
  • Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 111 minutes

Erik (Josh Hartnett) is a Denver sportswriter who can't catch a break with his editors until he meets a broken-down homeless guy (Samuel L. Jackson) who hasn't caught many breaks since he was a 1950s prizefighter. Erik figures, more than a little cavalierly, that he has a career-making story in this guy, that he'll win back his estranged wife (who's also a journalist) and that he'll finally be a good dad for his 6-year-old kid.

And except for human failings, all of that might be true. Alas, Erik proves lazy and way too casual about his research, and so gets sucker-punched by the facts. The story hinges on father/son relationships — the old fighter's with his kid, Erik's with his 6-year-old, and Erik's with his late dad, a legendary sports broadcaster whose rep he struggles to live up to.

The film is based loosely on fact; it's smartly edited (the fight flashbacks are effective), and when Jackson is center-screen, bobbing and weaving, taking punches from younger bullies and telling tales in a whiskey-soaked falsetto rasp, it's pretty engaging.

That it's not the knockout it wants to be is due mostly to the fact that when Erik's the focus — and director Rod Lurie keeps insisting that his struggle is the central one — the whole story stumbles.



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