Resurrecting the Champ

Split Decision

You might think Resurrecting the Champ is a boxing film, and in part you would be correct, but it is really about journalism and the ethics that should govern every newsperson every time. Sports reporter Erik (Josh Hartnett) meets former boxing champ Bob Satterfield (Samuel L. Jackson) at his home on skid row in Denver.

Sensing a story that would move him out of mediocrity and the shadow of his legendary radio broadcaster father, Erik, pushing the champ to tell his story, lands on the cover of the magazine section, a part on Showtime, and into big trouble as Satterfield turns out not to be Satterfield.

The film is strongest when it plays with the twin concepts of delusion and pride: Erik did not know the story was false, but so anxious was he to be successful, he did not perform due diligence in exploring the champ's truthful narration. The story of Erik's lie gets more complicated when he doesn't immediately inform his editor about the mistake. So the film moves from gross incompetence to corruption in a flash.

The plot thickens with a parallel story about honesty between Erik and his son. In all, the film tries to parallel these several levels to make a treatise on honesty. It partially succeeds, but where it falls short is in the sympathy we should feel for the protagonist, Erik. Mix Hartnett's low-key acting style with the fact that this lying scribe earns no respect throughout, either in home or at work, and the audience may not care what happens to him, a recipe for a flaccid film.

Add to that tepid stew the maudlin ending that tries to establish the primacy of the daddy/son motif, and you have an imbalance. The story should have been about Satterfield not Erik. Jackson would have taken the film to a TKO; as it is, Resurrecting the Champ is a metaphor for a split decision.