A good little scrapper, but not a title contender

Posted: August 24, 2007

Resurrecting the Champ stars Josh Hartnett as Erik, a second-string, and perhaps second-rate, journalist living in the shadow of his late, legendary sportscaster dad.

To impress his young son - and perhaps to pump up his own deflated sense of self-worth - Erik exaggerates his familiarity with the Denver sports figures he covers. In truth, he is on the brink of getting canned and quarterback John Elway wouldn't know Erik from any other Broncos fan.

By the time the sportswriter stumbles on a souse (Samuel L. Jackson) who claims to be former Golden Gloves champ Bob Satterfield, the men essentially are mirror images - one-time contenders who are a whiskey or two away from skid row.

Erik recognizes in the derelict a meal ticket: The story of a punch-drunk champion now on the streets could make his career. The champ recognizes in Erik a passport back to a place with a roof over his head.

Though sensitively acted by Jackson, this solemn sermonette from Rod Lurie (The Contender) struggles to get off the ropes and never quite establishes its rhythm. The film takes place in eternal moral twilight, dark enough to make faces look photogenically poignant, light enough to see the white lies.

Worthy if generically uplifting, Resurrecting the Champ has morals that Winston Churchill and Jake LaMotta both could love. It suggests that true success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm. And it implies that the most decisive bouts are those that take place outside the ring.

Resurrecting the Champ **1/2 (out of four stars)

Directed by Rod Lurie, written by Michael Bortman and Alison Burnett, from an article by J.R. Moehringer. With Josh Hartnett, Samuel L. Jackson and Kathryn Morris. Distributed by Yari Film Group.

Running time: 1 hour, 51 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, profanity)

Playing at: area theaters

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http:go.philly.com/flickgrrl/

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