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Resurrecting the Champ

Year: 2007
Production Co: Phoenix Pictures
Director: Rod Lurie
Producer: Rod Lurie/Mike Medavoy
Writer: Michael Bortman/Allison Burnett
Cast: Samuel L Jackson, Josh Hartnett, Rachel Nichols, Alan Alda, Teri Hatcher, David Paymer, Peter Coyote

This film further galvanises my opinions about Rod Lurie. He's one of the best directors working who makes films for smart adults, and he's much better working with his own scripts – his best films are still The Contender and Nothing But the Truth.

But as a former journalist, Resurrecting the Champ and its themes of journalistic integrity probably undoubtedly won him over, and he gives the proceedings the same very high quality outlook he always does.

I wasn't too sure about the casting of Josh Hartnett, who's a little too pretty for the role of anything except a can-do hero, but he's propped up by such a good script it hardly matters. Lurie's even got close to a career-best performance from Jackson (who I still think is one of the most overrated hams working in films today).

When struggling sports writer Erik (Hartnett) can't catch a break and impress his editor (Alda), the chance he needs seems to drop into his lap when he discovers the legendary 50s boxing contender Bob Satterfield (Jackson), living homeless, getting beaten up by preppy kids and eating out of dumpsters.

When both the newspaper's publisher and editor of the weekend magazine tell Erik how much they love the idea, Erik goes over his boss' head, does the article, gets it on the front page and hits the big time, even fielding offers from a glitzy cable channel represented by a sexy recruiter (Hatcher) and seeming to have it made.

So far, so happy ending. Because it's a Hollywood movie, so you know the wheels are going to fall off – not even Lurie can hide a bombshell forty minutes in, even though the story up until that point is still gripping.

A perfect storm of bad luck and over-eagerness has seen Erik make an unforgivable mistake. He didn't dig deep enough, and the homeless guy he's been interviewing and befriending isn't Satterfield. And the paper's legal counsel isn't only talking about scalps among the higher ups, the son of the real Satterfield is suing.

Hartnett does a good job of watching all his dreams come crashing down around his ears, and the story gives Erik a good emotional hook in wanting to be a much better father to his little boy than his own sportscaster Dad was to him. As he always does, Lurie blends small-scale emotional resonance with important matters and themes of global significance.

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