August 29, 2007 -- “Resurrecting the Champ” is an emotional film about an estranged son and an estranged father connecting for a big newspaper story that goes horribly wrong. During this traumatic experience, both men learn a lot about each other and themselves. This is not just about two men who make serious mistakes in their lives, it is about them trying to pick up the pieces, learn from their mistakes and get on with their lives the best way they can. It is about men who get knocked down, but pick themselves up and keep moving forward. The story is loosely based on an article by J.R. Moehringer about an old boxer named Battling Bob Satterfield and how he went from being a contender to a homeless man.
Denver Times sportswriter Erik Kernan (played by Josh Hartnett of “Lucky Number Slevin”) discovers a homeless man who calls himself “The Champ” (played by Samuel L. Jackson of “Snakes on a Plane”). The man claims to be Battling Bob Satterfield, a former professional boxer who is well-known in boxing circles, and who was presumed dead. Kernan sees an opportunity for a great news story which could boost his dead-end career at the newspaper. Kernan, the son of a famous sports broadcaster, feels a lot of pressure to live up to his father's name. He also wants to live up to his own son's inflated opinion of him (fed by Kernan's tall tales about friendships with famous sports figures). Kernan's home life is in shambles. His wife, Joyce (Kathryn Morris of “Paycheck”) wants a separation. Kernan does not want to become a stranger to his own son (played by Dakota Goyo) the way Kernan's famous father was to him.
As Kernan works on the story of Bob Satterfield, which he titles “Resurrecting the Champ,” he begins to have doubts about the old man who claims to be Satterfield. He tries to contact former boxers and trainers, assisted by research assistant Polly (Rachel Nichols of “Shopgirl”), but has no luck. Satterfield's son curses him and hangs up on his long distance call. He presses ahead with the story, choosing to bypass his own editor, Metz (Alan Alda of “The Aviator”) in favor of the newspaper's weekly magazine section. He lies to the magazine editor that Metz is not interested in the story. Metz has not endeared himself to Kernan, telling him, “I forget your pieces while I'm reading them ... I see a lot of typing but no writing.” He tells Kernan his stories lack quality and heart. Kernan is out to prove him wrong by hitting a home run with this big feature article.
After the story runs, Kernan is the toast of the town, getting job offers to work on television and on the staff of the magazine. Soon, however, he gets a call from an old boxing promoter, Epstein (Peter Coyote of “Northfork”), who tells him Bob Satterfield is dead. For a time, there is no proof of that, but eventually Kernan learns that the man he thought was Satterfield is actually another ex-pro boxer who has been pretending to be Satterfield for many years. The very video tape of an old Satterfield boxing match that had convinced Kernan that the old boxer's story was valid proved to be his undoing when Epstein correctly identified who the real fighters were in that ring.
Kernan's world quickly comes crashing down. Satterfield's son (Harry J. Lennix) demands an apology, and money for defaming his father's memory. Kernan's son is ashamed of him and must endure the taunts of school children. Kernan has to figure out a way to dig himself out of this mess, and so does The Champ. The story is about people who are far from perfect. There are no heroes here, just ordinary men. The film concentrates not only on these people's flaws, but on their strengths as well. Kernan and The Champ have hurt the people they love, but they did not mean to. They still love their family and friends and still want to get back into their good graces somehow. This is a story that anyone should be able to relate to because we all fall short of perfection. The film features a brilliant, Oscar-worthy performance by Samuel L. Jackson and strong performances by the rest of the cast. There is also a cameo role by former Denver Broncos great John Elway. It also gets the newsroom details right. This film rates an A.
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