L. Jackson, Josh Hartnett, Kathryn Morris, Alan
Alda, Teri Hatcher, Dakota Goyo
Released by: Yari Film
Short: Samuel L. Jackson gives the performance
of his life in this tepid drama about fathers
and sons, honesty and lies, and what happens
to pro boxers after the glory ends.
Up a Good Fight
No Knockout Here
idea behind “Resurrecting the Champ” comes
from a real article written in 1999 for the “L.A.
Times Magazine" about a long-forgotten boxing
contender from the 1950s who ended up living on the streets.
Journalist-turned-director Rod Lurie (“The Contender”)
seems a natural choice for this article to screen adaptation.
Lurie has good intentions, expanding the story to feature
facets of truth and lies, fathers and sons and the need
to be the best. Unfortunately, he only hired one great
actor in a film that desperately needed two to make it
The great one here is Samuel L. Jackson, who gives one
of the best performances of his life as the down-and-out “Champ.” We
learn early on that the “Champ,” consequently,
was never a champ at all, but a top contender nonetheless. Greatly aged with
makeup, a grey-tinged head full of dreadlocks, and an old man's voice and shuffle,
Jackson is practically unrecognizable, a far cry from the ultra-cool, ultra-macho
man he usually plays on screen. It is a completely believable characterization,
filled with pathos and a yearning for life as it once was, back in his glory
The problem with the drama comes in the casting of the central character, Erik
Kernan, a Denver newspaper sports reporter played by Josh Hartnett. Kernan is
a guy whose life is a mess. He struggles with career stagnation, a separation
from his more-successful wife, and the loss of day-to-day contact with his young
son. It's a role that needs an actor that compels us to watch. Unfortunately,
once the initial impact of Hartnett's extreme good looks wears off, it is clear
once again that he is just not a guy who can carry the weight of a serious drama
on his shoulders.
It's painfully obvious in his scenes opposite his bosses at the paper, as Oscar
nominees Alan Alda and David Paymer just blow him right off the screen. Even
little Dakota Goyo, who plays Hartnett's young son, has a more compelling onscreen
presence than the matinee idol, who always seems to be just going through the
motions and not actually feeling the emotions.
Other positive acting standouts in
the film include Teri Hatcher as a pushy Showtime casting
director and Peter Coyote as a very old, very Jewish boxing
promoter who exposes the ugly underbelly of Kernan's sensational,
career-making story about the Champ.
Overall, “Resurrecting the Champ” is a serviceable drama, but certainly
not a knockout. The knockout inside it is Samuel Jackson's Oscar-worthy performance;
too bad it is surrounded by Hartnett's curiously boring take on a man in career
and family crisis.