Resurrecting the Champ
Is it my imagination or is there a whole sub-genre of films these days about newspaper reporters who make up their stories, who don't bother to do their research, and who end up hoist by their own petard, which by the way originally meant by their own explosive fart - now, of course, a little less anatomical and meaning an explosive device used to break down a door - same thing. So poor Erik Kernan (Josh Hartnett), a reporter for a Denver paper and not doing well there, one evening comes across a homeless man being beaten up by some thugs. That's Samuel L. Jackson, the 'Champ,' who tells Hartnett that he's Bob Satterfield, a former boxer who once got to be number 3 in the world. Finally, here's a story for Erik - a human interest story about this onetime contender who's now living on the streets of Denver.
But oddly enough there's not much in the paper's morgue about Satterfield; maybe one story that he died twenty years ago. But here's the Champ, so he can't be dead, right? Uh-oh, as we say. So Erik does the story, it runs as the front page in the paper's magazine, it gets Erik a gig as a boxing reporter for Showtime, and he's on his way, except that the Champ wasn't Bob Satterfield at all.
But Erik has been telling his six-year-old son Teddy all kinds of lies about the celebrities he knows; how will he manage to deal with this? Let's just say that in a clichéd ending it all comes out right. What's more important, and much more interesting, is the performance by Samuel L. Jackson as the 'Champ.' Raising his voice to a tenor instead of his normal baritone, whispering everything, jogging along as he pulls his cart through the streets, feinting and jabbing his way through life, his face a map of thousands of cracks partially hidden behind a grey beard, Jackson is amazing to watch. Naturally, because the film has been released at the end of August with the dregs of summer, he is not likely to get an academy award nomination, but he surely deserves one. I wish I had a vote.
Alan Alda as his editor, who regards his work as 'typing rather than writing,' and David Paymer, the editor of the magazine section, are just fine; it's just Hartnett, who hasn't got the depth to play the lead here, who drags the film down.