RESURRECTING THE CHAMP
****1/2 (out of 5)
August 24, 2007
Samuel L. Jackson as CHAMP
Josh Hartnett as ERIK
Kathryn Morris as JOYCE
Dakota Goyo as TEDDY
Alan Alda as METZ
Rachel Nichols as POLLY
Teri Hatcher as ANDREA FLAK
Studio: The Yari Film Group
Directed by: Rod Lurie
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
As a film critic, you can get quite jaded. After all, we see hundreds of movies each year, and we take the good with the bad. It puts a different perspective on things, and perhaps that is why we are often misunderstood by the mainstream.
Still, even in my own friendly circle of film critics, I have a bit of a reputation for liking the popcorn movies and turning a cold shoulder to the so-called artsy films. This makes me the butt of many jokes come award season.
So when a film comes around that really knocks my socks off, I have a strong duty to let people know about it. And this is exactly what happened with “Resurrecting the Champ.”
The film tells the story of a young reporter named Erik Kernan (Josh Hartnett) who was trying to make a career for himself and struggle out from under his father’s shadow as one of the greatest sports journalists of the last century. His struggle at work is compounded by the fact that he’s separated from his wife (who also works at the paper), and he tries to build himself up with some white lies to his six-year-old son.
When Erik runs into a homeless man (Samuel L. Jackson) that turns out to be a once-great boxing legend, he sees his chance. Erik writes a heartwarming piece about the boxer, and he finally gets the professional recognition that he needs. However, there are some skeletons in the closet for this story, and he must deal with some devastating consequences.
I was given an opportunity to see this film several weeks before its release, and I started watching it with the normal cynical, critical eye. By the time the film was in full swing, I was hooked. There was something about the movie that just touched me deep in my core.
Maybe it was because I identified with writer aspect of the character. It’s not uncommon to find stories about journalists, but director Rod Lurie (who used to be a film critic himself) provided a perspective on this angle that was extremely vivid and truthfully mundane. Let’s face, it… journalism isn’t really like what’s portrayed in most films.
More realistically, however, I think I connected with “Resurrecting the Champ” because of the grand theme of father-son relationships. I have a six-year-old child myself (and a four-year-old on the way up as well), and I could understand the desire for Erik to lie to his child. But I also understood the consequences that follow in the film.
Lurie, who has made films before with larger, sweeping social issues (e.g., sexism and principles in politics in “The Contender”), tackles a much more intimate issue in “Resurrecting the Champ.” He proves that he can drive home a message close to home without being preachy, and this makes it one of his most relatable pieces.
In addition to the solid plot, “Resurrecting the Champ” is a must see for the performances. Samuel L. Jackson pulls out all stops and delivers one of the most rich performances of his life. It’s not just a rehash of Jules from “Pulp Fiction” or the guy who’s sick of the @#$% snakes on the @#$% plane. The role of Champ shows us that Jackson is not just the go-to guy in Hollywood who knows how to swear. He can disappear in a role like the best of them.
And with a performance like Jackson’s, the other actors must have felt the need to bring something more than usual. Josh Hartnett, whom I’ve been very hard on in the past, really steps up his game in this film. He’s not lost beside Jackson’s performance, which goes to show that he has some talent under that good-looking mug.
“Resurrecting the Champ” is not a big popcorn movie, but it’s one not to be missed. And I’ll be stunned if Jackson doesn’t get an Oscar nomination from this film.