Plot: Erik (Josh Hartnett) is a sportswriter who has a lot of work published, as he is more or less the workhorse for his newspaper. But while his articles are numerous, his skills as a writer are rarely praised, as his output tends to lack personality or depth, it is just adequate and on time. His situation is made worse because his father was a famous, acclaimed writer, casting a large shadow over Erik even in death. But he wants to prove himself and slow his work, focusing on fewer, but more impactful articles, though that is a hard sell to his boss. Erik sees a chance to make a splash when he meets Champ (Samuel L. Jackson), a homeless man who claims he was a world class boxer, now all but forgotten by the world. The two strike up a friendship and Erik begins to write about Champ’s life, hoping to not only further his own career, but get his new friend a chance at a better life as well. But when things take some unexpected turns, Erik is forced to confront some tough issues about himself and his own life.
Entertainment Value: This movie is based on real life events and once again, we see that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. I had to look into the actual story after I saw the movie, as it was such an interesting concept, one that is given a proper treatment in this adaptation. I appreciate that Resurrecting the Champ takes a more deliberate, grounded approach to the material and lets the characters develop, never rushing ahead for the bigger moments. This makes those scenes feel earned, as the time is taken to build the characters and emotional arcs, so when the narrative starts to turn, it means something and so do the actions that follow that turn. The slower pace was never an issue for me, as the story is always intriguing and the writing is on point, so even the exposition heavy segments don’t feel drawn out. The time invested here is for a reason, so it never comes off as filler in the least. I just connected with the story right from the start, so I was hooked in and enjoyed the entire movie. I’d recommend this to those who like boxing movies or based on a true story cinema.
This movie has a good cast, with some talented performers present even in smaller roles, which helps the material a lot. I found Samuel L. Jackson’s effort here to be quite good, a step above his usual, more formulaic work and a refreshing change of pace. This is far removed from the generic bad asses he often tackles, so he is able to show some depth and range, which he is able to take advantage of. I liked seeing a tender side of Jackson and he handles the dramatic requirements well enough, while also having flashes of Champ’s past fight skills just beneath the surface. Josh Hartnett is fine as well, but doesn’t leave as much of an impression. But his performance is solid and sincere, so he is a capable lead for Resurrecting the Champ. Alan Alda and David Paymer have smaller, but important roles that are well performed. The cast here also includes Kathryn Morris, Harry Lennix, Teri Hatcher, and Peter Coyote.
The Disc: Resurrecting the Champ hits Blu-ray as part of the MVD Marquee Collection, in a rock solid visual presentation. The print looks good, with a heavier than normal, but natural grain, while some softness is present, but not much. The movie has a certain look because of the source material, so this treatment replicates the visuals well and the film looks as it should. The extras ported over include director Rod Lurie’s audio comments, two promotional featurettes, and the film’s trailer.