Starring: Josh Hartnett, Samuel L. Jackson, Dakota Goyo, Kathryn Morris
Directed By: Rod Lurie
Written By: Michael Bortman, Allison Burnett
Resurrecting the Champ is a story taken from the article published in the Los Angeles Times Magazine in 1997. The story was based on legendary boxing heavy weight champion, Bob Satterfield. Resurrecting the Champ took this article by J.R. Moehringer and built off of it through fictionalized accounts of the author’s life as well as his relationship with his interviewee, the imposter of Satterfield. Resurrecting the Champ took this idea and used it to explore the human emotions involved in this relationship and just what that translated to for the characters.
Erik Kernan (Hartnett) is a journalist who is trying desperately to live up to his father’s name, who is a very well respected himself. He feels that he really isn’t even given the opportunities to do this though. Anytime, he pitches an idea for a story that has any emotional quality, is of human interest, or has any substance whatsoever, it is immediately shut down by his editor. Not only is his personal pride suffering, but his job may even be on the line if he can’t begin to deliver some well received stories. Without this, he can’t help but feel a certain level of instability, which seems to be there with his family as well. Erik is very close with his son, Teddy (Goyo). Teddy looks up to his father in every way and Erik just wants to give him someone that is really worthy of this admiration. One thing holding them back from being a close family is that Erik is no longer with Teddy’s mother, Joyce (Morris). Erik is very much still in love with her and they continue to have a good, caring relationship. However, Erik just wants to be a real family with both Joyce and Teddy again, so he can finally feel at home again.
When Erik begins talking to an older homeless man on the street known as Champ (Jackson), since he thinks that he is boxing champion, Bob Satterfield. When this man confirms this Erik thinks this is his winning ticket to boost his career. Erik sees so much potential in this story about this man that can reminisce about his glory days and what that experience was like for him. Champ hesitates at first, but Erik ends up convincing him. Erik works on this story for awhile and it does end up coming out on the front page. He starts to get all sorts of offers from other companies as well. Erik is the talk of the moment, but it doesn’t take long for this success to fall to pieces. The son of Bob Satterfield is suing Erik and his company for printing a false story about his deceased father and giving a negative connotation to the feelings he had for him. Erik’s career of writing is over and his reputation as a journalist and even as a man is spoiled, as he is labeled as someone who does sloppy work, reporting mere lies.
The top notch acting really added a lot to this film. Josh Hartnett tackled the lead role of Erik Kernan. Kernan was obviously based on Moehringer, but a unique character was created through him. So Hartnett especially had to bring the man of Erik forward, but most importantly he had to exert his emotions. Luckily, he displayed them very well and this made the story much stronger than it would have been without this. The human emotions is really what this movie depends on. Of course, Samuel L. Jackson really gives a remarkable performance as “Bob Satterfield”. This is no surprise as he is one of the quality actors with real range, surging emotional power through the screen. Jackson was the spitting image of a homeless man trying to find something to live through. Even the voice change that he used in this was very accurate, really appearing to be one of the homeless men we see on the streets everyday. Jackson’s character was complicated as well, being the antagonist at times while at other time you can’t help but cheer for him. I can’t forget about the young and adorable Dakota Goyo as Teddy. He just lit up the screen and the sympathy was surely there for him, especially when he is in pain about the situation with his father. He didn’t want to think that his father would lie and to such a large audience, but this made him feel like a bad person as well for at one point claiming that his dad was telling the truth. Goyo does more than this through Teddy though. He really gets us to question our main character of Erik, more successfully than anyone else in the film.
Logically when a mess this big occurs, everyone looks for someone to blame. Obviously this homeless man is responsible since he went on and on about his story that wasn’t even the truth. The film displays this humanly natural tendency to shift the blame, but it quickly gets past this on a search for understanding. Why did this really occur? Champ just acted like he was the man that Erik wanted him to be. He did this for both of them even though it may have seemed selfish. He initially refused the offer, but was only persuaded when Erik claimed how desperately he needed this story. So this man gave it to him, with his knowledge of his own short lived days in boxing. For Erik, it was a formula that should have let him be everything that he wanted to while for Champ, it is just a way to escape his everyday life to be respected as an individual who once had a taste of this victory. It also helps you examine what is really is important in life. This controversy meant nothing to Champ. The only thing that really scared him was something that he had already lost; his family. Erik wants his family back, but it takes him awhile to really realize what this means. His work life has nothing to do with this. His son doesn’t need him to have any sort of reputation, he just needs him to be open and honest with him; someone he knows he can trust and count on no matter what. Champ is the one who helps him realize this and Erik in turn makes him face his fear of rejection, as he pushes Champ to come back to his family. To get to this point is not an easy path for Erik as he wants nothing more than to destroy this man for destroying his career and any stability that he might have had. Erik learns to forgive Champ and to hold himself responsible.
I really didn’t know much about Resurrecting the Champ going in to it. I knew it involved a famous boxer and that there was a journalism side to it. That was the basis of what I knew about the plot though. I think that helped me be surprised with what went on in the film. I was completely convinced with every situation, story, and character, that it really came as a shock when it turned out what we had been guided to know, wasn’t true at all. I really just got lucky though, as it is very difficult not to know what came as the major surprise to me. It is even advertised on the front of the movie poster, “Based on a true story, that was based on a lie”. Still even knowing what’s coming I think there is still a lot of enjoyment as you’re watching it. It’s a very compelling story, but the dynamic characters, the wonderful acting and the interweaving concepts and themes along with the remarkable emotion that is exerted through out this really making it an enjoyable and personal film.