Judge Paul Pritchard gloves up and prepares to enter the ring.
"This sounds like it's gonna be a very sad story."
Resurrecting The Champ is based loosely on the true story of journalist J.R. Moehringer and his article, "Resurrecting The Champ," that was published in the Los Angeles Times Magazine.
Facts of the Case
Erik Kernan, a sports writer for the Denver Times, is desperate to impress his editor but is consistently guilty of quantity over quality. A chance meeting with a homeless man, who calls himself "The Champ" and claims to be former boxer Bob Satterfield, gives Kernan his chance to make the big time by writing a heartfelt piece on this forgotten pugilist.
As the two men spend more time together, a friendship is born, and they discover similarities between them that bring Erik to question how he lives his own life. When the article is published to huge acclaim, Erik appears to have had his every wish granted…but then a lie is exposed that could take everything from under him.
Resurrecting The Champ was not the film I was expecting it to be when I put the disc in my player. Honestly, I imagined it would be something similar to the glorious, but hugely undervalued, Cinderella Man; instead we have a film that, at its core, is about fathers and sons, and accepting who you are and being true to who that is.
Dealing with how we aspire to make our fathers proud, while conversely they strive to be worthy of our admiration, Resurrecting The Champ illustrates how, in our efforts to impress, we can sometimes miss the truth in what we are doing, as witnessed when sportswriter Erik Kernan (Josh Hartnett, Lucky Number Slevin) sees the chance to be worthy of the name of his deceased father, a legendary sportscaster, while continuing to be a relevant part of his adoring son's life, following the breakdown of his marriage. When his friendship with Champ grows deeper, and the two begin to talk of their upbringing and relationship with their own sons, Kernan is given cause to look inside and see whether he is making the same mistakes both Champ and his own father made.
Another facet that works in favor of Resurrecting The Champ is its dealing with a sportsman who failed to make the big time. In these times where sportsmen command astronomical wages that see them losing touch more and more with the fans who help put them on their pedestals, its fitting to see the flipside of this; the forgotten idol who life dealt a lesser hand to. The story of "Champ," who came so close to being champion of the world but instead is nothing but a footnote in the history of his sport, is the story of a man who assumed nothing but dared to dream, before seeing his dream turn into a nightmare. Though perhaps a well-worn story it is one that, when told as well as it is here, really connects with its audience, drawing out an emotional response.
Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) is simply stunning here. More than just playing the role of Champ, Jackson inhabits the role so convincingly that I often forgot I was watching the same guy who kicked cobra ass in Snakes On A Plane. Though the excellent makeup work helps, it is Jackson's meticulous, though seemingly effortless commitment to his craft that really brings the character of Champ to life and gives the film extra gravitas. Josh Hartnett, in the central role of Erik Kernan, shows he is growing as an actor. In particular the scenes shared between Erik and his son, Teddy, give Hartnett the chance to prove himself, which he does admirably. Alan Alda (M*A*S*H) is superb as Erik's editor, Ralph Metz, though not given a great deal of screen time, Alda makes the most of every minute as the man who recognizes the potential in Erik and pushes him in an effort to draw it out. Likewise, Kathryn Morris (Mindhunters), as Erik's estranged wife, has limited time in front of the camera, but still serves as the film's moral compass, someone Erik turns to when the chips are down.
Resurrecting The Champ is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that is sadly far from championship material. The image is quite soft and frequently suffers from artifacting. Though I personally have no problem with grain, the picture is at times heavy with it, which I'm fully aware is a bugbear for some viewers. Detail levels were also quite poor. Whether these issues are down to the check disc I was sent being of a lower quality than the final product released, I don't know, but the picture quality, though far from terrible, was disappointing overall.
The disc's special features are also a little lacking. What's here is fine, but considering this is based on a true story, a feature on the real events that inspired it would have been far more rewarding than what really only amounts to about 10 minutes of cast and crew interviews.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Director Rod Lurie does have a habit of being overly sentimental at various points throughout Resurrecting The Champ. With less capable actors this may have proved damaging but, thanks largely to his cast and partly to just good old-fashioned storytelling, Lurie gets away with it. Most of these instances come towards the films finale where Hartnett's voiceover may prove too sickly sweet for some, but felt genuine and well-intentioned enough not to stick in my craw.
Evoking the golden age of boxing, before the moneymen took over, and bringing to mind our own sporting heroes and their fates, Resurrecting The Champ brings something a little different to the sports movie genre. While it works perfectly as a sports movie, the added dimension provided by the relationships between both Champ and Erik and their fathers and sons gives the film a more universal appeal, meaning non-sports fans will find much to enjoy.
As the bell rings and draws to a close to the final round, and with nobody able to achieve a knockout, the decision is down to the judges who give the victory to Resurrecting The Champ.
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• Commentary with Director Rob Lurie
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