a critiQal film review Resurrecting the Champ (2007)

  • DVD

Plot: Sportswriter Erik Kernan (Hartnett), looking to emerge from his famous radio announcer dad's shadow, meets a former boxing champion living on the streets (Jackson). Recording his new friend's story of triumph and tragedy, Erik shoots for the big story he so desperately desires. But, when the tale arouses suspicions, Kernan will learn a story is only as good as the man behind it. Based on a true story.

898 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 29s)

To me, a good drama gives of an essence, a mindset that seems just out of reach. It’s a feeling that the film is trying to reach the viewer on a deeper level, one the viewer can’t quite comprehend. The viewer can’t quite pinpoint it, and the reason behind the emotion can’t be narrowed down to the acting, or the storyline, or anything else specific, but it’s there nonetheless.

Because of that, I’ve always found it easier to focus on action films – something that stimulates the adrenal gland as much – or sometimes more than – the brain. So, when Resurrecting The Champ turned out to be more drama than action, I was a bit hesitant about writing a review. Am I missing the bigger picture here, or am I reading too much into the baser emotions the film evokes?

Then again, maybe it’s Josh Hartnett. With his honest visage and halfway decent acting, viewers are usually left with a feeling that they aren’t giving him the justice he deserves. Maybe it’s the earnest way he thrusts himself into each role, or the simple honesty that seems so well-suited on him. Whatever the reason, it always seems that viewers who don’t appreciate his performance are missing the smaller nuances.

At this point in his career, however, there should have been a defining moment that really resonates with viewers, but time and time again, that moment has failed to appear. Instead, he uses his honest face to stumble his way through film after film, moving forward until someone finally catches on that the viewer’s impression of him is nothing more than pity. The only possible exception could be his quick and suprising turn in Sin City – but then again, that role was quick enough viewers didn’t have the time to see through his charade.

That’s not to say he’s awful – far from it. Instead, he just seems to be “surface” actor. He can fool viewers quite a bit with his surface performance, but once viewers dig down a little deeper, they notice he lacks the conviction underneath to back it up. The truly great ones have that conviction in spades, and don’t need the “surface” acting – that conviction resonates no matter what role they play.

Samuel L. Jackson is one of those actors. Whether he’s strutting his stuff as a cop in varying roles (, , , etc.) or carving out his own niche as a Jedi Knight, Jackson always manages to bring that conviction with him wherever he goes. Sure, some times it shines through better than others, but each and every time viewers get – if only for a moment – to see him really shine. Hartnett would probably kill at this point for that same moment, but Sam’s so used to it viewers now expect it.

No matter what Jackson does, it’s entertaining. He could be out shopping for groceries, and it’d still be interesting TV (at least more interesting than some of the reality crap on these days). That gets put to the test a bit in Resurrecting The Champ as Jackson – channeling his ex-boxer role – ekes out a raspy whine that’s a bit hard on the ears for most of the film. But even that deterrent won’t keep viewers away, and they will find themselves caught up in his story almost in spite of themselves.

The rest of the cast – including names like Teri Hatcher, Rachel Nichols and even Alan Alda – appear in such brief performances they almost leave after-images on the screen, they are gone that fast. Though some of those roles look quite juicy, they quickly drop out of sight, some never to be seen again – even if that means a plot point or two is left dangling.

The storyline – as in most dramas these days – focuses less on the good and the bad than the events that happened. Never really assigning much blame to what takes place, the film leaves the viewer to assign the blame on their own – like our own, it’s a gray world these characters live in these days, not the black-and-white of old. There is no wholly right, there is no wholly wrong – there just is.

Like most of us, these characters stumble their way through a story with no real clear winners or losers. While some dramas aim to be uplifting, and others are all about the depression, Resurrecting The Champ straddles the muddy middle line, leaving the viewers feeling a bit let down by the end of the film.

While Resurrecting The Champ has the ability – like any good drama – to bring out the baser feelings in it’s viewers – and that odd feeling the viewer is missing something more that’s just out of reach – it’s not without it’s flaws.

Despite another shining performance from Jackson, his rasp is a bit of an annoyance throughout the film, and Hartnett’s placid facade has cracked a bit by the end. Also, thanks to the film’s inability to choose a side and it’s heavy-handed way of dismissing characters that seem intriguing, Resurrecting The Champ turns out to be a bit of a letdown by movie’s end.

A decent first showing overall – and definitely worth a rental despite it’s flaws – but not something viewers will want to keep coming back to again and again.

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