Samuel L. Jackson gives a great lost-cause performance as a homeless former prizefighter with a tragic present and an elusive past in Resurrecting the Champ, a delayed-coming-of-age drama that otherwise throws a weak one-two combination as a sports film and a newspaper movie. Jackson creates a searing study in reverse nobility as a character with a battered, street-poetic presence and subtle powers of sympathy that come into play even when he appears to be a rogue.
Unfortunately, Josh Hartnett is all prose as Erik Kernan, a sports reporter for The Denver Times who is frustrated on the job (he wishes he were covering the Broncos or the Nuggets) and aching in his private life because he and his wife, Joyce (Kathryn Morris of TV's Cold Case), are in the midst of a painful separation. He's afraid of becoming the absentee father to his son, Teddy (Dakota Goyo), that his father, Erik Sr., was to him. Oh, one more thing: Erik Sr. was a revered and reviled sports broadcaster. So when Erik Jr. stumbles onto Jackson's Champ while some brain-dead teens are beating up on him, it becomes the kind of chance encounter that Erik hopes will even his reputation with his dad's, rescue his career and marriage, and restore his own luster as a parent.
Resurrecting the Champ (Yari Film Group) Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Josh Hartnett. Directed by Rod Lurie. Rated PG-13. Time 111 minutes.