RESURRECTING THE CHAMP (Rod Lurie). 111 minutes. Opens Friday (August 24). Rating: NNN
Like the down-for-the-count fighter at the centre of this sports drama, Resurrecting The Champ doesn't so much bob and weave through round after round of inspirational clichés as stumble over them. Yet it stays on its feet long enough to earn a split decision thanks to the steady jabs it takes at the drama outside the ring.
Based on a true story, Champ stars Josh Hartnett as Erik Kernan, a second-string sports writer whose career is on the ropes until he encounters a homeless man (Samuel L. Jackson) who says he used to be a heavyweight contender most people thought was dead.
The resulting magazine story brings both boxer and writer new and not always wanted attention. Uncomfortable questions begin to surface about the veracity of the boxer's tale. At this point, boxing takes a back seat to exploring journalistic ethics and personal integrity.
Hartnett comes across as bland and paper-thin in most roles, but here, as a scribe working in the shadow of a more famous father and struggling with being a single father to a six-year-old son, he gives one of his most-convincing performances.
And while Jackson's high-pitched wheeze occasionally made me want to fire a fist into his yellow teeth, his boxer-turned-bum is similarly compelling, if not exactly a knockout.