Resurrecting The Champ DVD Review
By Prairie Miller
A sensitively and thoughtfully crafted offbeat sports drama, Rod Lurie's Resurrecting The Champ is a tale of two losers, so to speak: A usta-be boxer downsized in middle age to Denver skid row, and a local young newspaper sportswriter who can't seem to live up to the celeb scribe fame of his late father who preceded him in the biz. Resurrecting The Champ is a finely honed character, study as long as it sticks to sports. But when it veers out of athlete territory into overlong long and drawn out domestic melodrama, the impact is woefully sidelined.
Erik (Josh Hartnett) is a rookie sports reporter at a Denver paper, who can't seem to make the grade despite his late stellar dad's reputation. He's dissed by his superiors as just plain mediocre. With the emotional support of his estranged wife who happens to be a co-worker at his paper, Erik locks into a potential big story that could skyrocket his sagging career - about a champ in the ring who has fallen on hard times (Samuel L. Jackson) - after encountering the demoralized but still gutsy alcoholic in a back alley. Though the ex-boxer is a bit peeved to be interrupted while 'shopping,' That is, on his rummaging rounds for booze through assorted garbage cans.
A movie with heart and spunk that is likely to appeal to boxing fans as well as various categories of civilians including females, Resurrecting The Champ was fashioned as a script by screenwriters Michael Bortman and Allison Burnettan, from an actual L.A. Times magazine story by J.R. Moehringer. The film is also nicely saturated with authentic boxing world atmosphere and lore, by including crusty old-timers in cameos.
Also taking this narrative above and beyond the conventional rags to riches yarn - or in this case, the reverse - are the articulate reflections that connect the stressful and lonely - and very publicly scrutinized - aspirations of both writers and boxers. As relayed by the creatively dejected Erik, 'A writer like a boxer must stand alone. Your talent is on display, and there's no place to hide.'
Jackson's over the top depiction of an ex-boxing bum tends to slide over into distracting caricature, and really needed more directorial discipline to reign that big screen champ in. And the far too extended dramatic reach of this story is also a drawback. If only the film had stayed out of the bedroom and in the bowels of the boxing world, this small gem could have been an unqualified knockout.
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