Resurrecting the Champ

August 25, 2007 - Samuel L. Jackson is a knockout in this movie about the relationship between a down-and-out former boxer and a young sports reporter who's better at lying than he is at writing the truth. Josh Hartnett is the reporter; Kathryn Morris (Cold Case) is his estranged wife.

The movie begins with Erik Kernan (Harnett) getting kicked around on the boxing beat at The Denver Times. He's haunted by his radio icon father, a voice of authority on boxing, who deserted Erik at a young age. Grown-up Erik knows little about the sport and it shows in his writing. His editor tries to shame him into doing better, but Erik and his ego are set on a cushy job writing features for the paper's Sunday magazine.

Erik's break comes when he rushes to the aid of a homeless man (Jackson) who's just been worked over by a group of college punks. The man calls himself "Champ" and says he's Battlin' Bob Satterfield, a one-time title contender who everyone seemed to think was dead. Erik sets out to write Champ's story, hoping that by "resurrecting" him, he can resurrect his career, his marriage and his relationship with his son. Sounds like a plan, if only he had remembered to check his facts.

Overall review: ** Jackson is very good in his role as the Champ, and Hartett and Morris are solid. Teri Hatcher is great in a small role, as are Alan Alda and Peter Coyote.

But, performances aside, this movie has a big problem. Namely, that the journalistic aspect of it doesn't ring true. The character of Erik is a reporter at a big newspaper in a major city. Yet somehow, he manages to keep his story on the Champ a secret from his editor, all while lying to the editor of the magazine. And, the single source for his big story is a punch-drunk homeless guy. If a story like this ever got published at a big city daily, my guess is that the reporter and several editors would be fired instead of being given another chance. For a movie that purports to be about truth, this film does a lot of stretching.