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  Resurrecting the Champ

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Samuel L. Jackson, Teri Hatcher, Alan Alda

Directed by: Rod Lurie

Produced by: Mike Medavoy, Rod Lurie, Marc Frydman, Bob Yari

Written by: Allison Burnett, Michael Bortman
Distributor: Yari Film Group


     Yari Film Group would like you to think that Resurrecting the Champ is a genuine, heartwarming Underdog Story. To a certain extent, it is, but not in the way that the studio may lead you to believe. Watching the previews for the film, a prospective ticket-buyer gathers that Resurrecting the Champ is about a sports reporter (Josh Hartnett) who finds himself writing a piece on a homeless ex-heavyweight-champion boxer who calls himself Champ (Samuel L. Jackson). Their representation of background-story accurate, but from this point of introduction, the trailer-cutters over Yari at go onto suggest that the movie will be about the literal resurrection of a champ, as if Jackson’s old-man of an underdog will go onto regain his past glory and fight in the ring again. This is as misleading a tactic as promotional-materials could possibly employ. If you aren’t familiar with the true story behind the film, you won’t see the second-act turning-point coming; it is completely glossed-over by the picture’s trailers. The real underdog in Resurrecting the Champ is Hartnett’s Erik, a down-on-his-luck Denver sportswriter who fights two battles of his own: making a name for himself in selling newspapers and keeping his torn family together.

     Resurrecting the Champ’s aforementioned “plot twist” is only a twist because it isn’t mentioned in the film’s promotional materials. I could divulge it here and now, in this review, and the story’s conclusion wouldn’t lose any of its punch for readers who later see the movie. But I’m not going to. Even though I feel that Yari Film Group was dumb in marketing this as a melodramatic tearjerker (its opening day box office tally affirms this), there’s something wonderful about what they have done. In misleading audiences about the contents of the film, the studio has given all viewers unfamiliar with the real story a virgin theatrical experience, so to speak. The majority of filmgoers who see Resurrecting the Champ will be able to view it with an unbiased, fresh pair of eyes. To spoil this with my review—as I’m sure many other critics have with theirs—would be an act of colossal disloyalty to my readership. The surprising experience that this film offers is one to be cherished.

     What I can say about the movie without spoiling it is that the acting it showcases is phenomenal. In the role of Erik, Hartnett captures a level of intensity that perfectly conveys the film’s themes about journalistic responsibility. Harnett has gotten somewhat of a bad rap in the critical community due to his participation in several tasteless films (40 Days and 40 Nights, anyone?), but his work here shows that it’s about time to forgive him for his past misdoings. He’s terrific in Resurrecting the Champ. Alongside Harnett as the homeless boxer Champ, Jackson disappears into his role through both a profound physical transformation and an embrace of a kind of sweaty, rhythmic vernacular. The only reason that this role isn’t inviting comparisons to Charlize Theron’s provocative turn in Monster is because Champ isn’t a controversial character like Theron’s Ailen Wuornos. However, it should be duly noted Jackson disappears into Champ just as much as Theron did into Wuornos. If Resurrecting the Champ miraculously finds an audience, the actor’s work should have a strong following. This is unlikely, though. Thanks to the wonders of poor marketing, this film will unfortunately fade into infinity, filmgoers still assuming that it was Just Another Sports Drama.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 8.25.2007

Screened on: 8.24.2007 at the UltraStar Flower Hill 4 in Del Mar, CA.


Resurrecting the Champ is rated PG-13 and runs 111 minutes.

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