Directed by Rod Lurie
Josh Hartnett’s Erik Kernen works in the trenches at the Denver Times, trying to live up to his father’s name while working in the same newsroom as his estranged wife (Kathryn Morris). Their son Teddy (Dakota Goya) idolizes his father, who lies to the boy about how he’s friends with John Elway and other sports stars. With Eric’s stories constantly being buried by his tough boss, a chance encounter with a homeless man known as “Champ” and the realization of who he really is gives Erik the chance to write something important that might elevate his career beyond the sports backpages. He begins to spend a lot of time with the Champ trying to get everything he needs to tell the powerful story of how a famous boxer could fall so far, while skating around those who don’t believe he has what it takes to tell this story.
Nearly unrecognizable with a rat’s nest of dreadlocks and delivering his lines with a high rasping wheeze, the eccentric behavior by Sam Jackson’s “Champ” might take some time to adjust to. He keeps the tone light throughout even when things start to get more serious, although it’s never about his character as much as it is about the part he plays in telling Erik’s story. About two-thirds of the way through the movie, something unexpected happens that drastically changes the tone and direction, at which point, it becomes less about Satterfield and more about how Erik deals with the repercussion of earlier actions, and this is where it clearly becomes Hartnett’s movie.
The best dramas are the ones that can keep you riveted with just two actors on screen, and Hartnett holds his own whether he’s interviewing the screen-hogging “Champ,” dealing with his tough editoranother great performance by Alan Aldaor in the scenes with his young son, played by Dakota Goyo. Surprisingly, it’s the latter that will really strike a chord and leave the most emotional impact on the viewer, whether you have kids or not. Film buffs should be able to appreciate the quality of the writing and acting and what Lurie has done with what might have been a simple story, and he doesn’t dilute things by inundating the viewer with the flashy camerawork other directors might have brought to the mix. Essentially, he proves once again that he’s able to tell a cinematic story in a clear and concise way that makes one appreciate the characters, the words and the emotions.
Clearly, “Resurrecting the Champ” is one of the better films this year, a personal best for Lurie and Hartnett and an endearing crowd-pleasing movie that can be enjoyed on many different levels by anyone who likes solid dramatic storytelling.