Yari Film Group
Josh Hartnett and Samuel L. Jackson in "Resurrecting the Champ."
RESURRECTING THE CHAMP — ** 1/2 — Josh Hartnett, Samuel L. Jackson, Kathryn Morris; rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, brief gore, slurs, vulgarity, brief drugs)

"Resurrecting the Champ" isn't quite a knockout. In fact, if this sports drama was a pugilistic bout, it would have to go to the scorecards just to get a favorable decision.

It certainly doesn't help that the focus changes so drastically in the film's second half, and we get more Josh Hartnett than Samuel L. Jackson.

Still, there are enough winning elements, and the sometimes bland Hartnett is pretty solid here. He stars as Erik Kernan Jr., the son of a legendary sports broadcaster.

Unfortunately, the younger Kernan's life, and his sportswriting career, aren't going so well. He's separated from his journalist wife (Kathryn Morris), he doesn't get to spend nearly enough time with their young son (Dakota Goyo), and his boss (Alan Alda) seems unimpressed with his workmanlike writing abilities.

However, he apparently catches a big break when he discovers "Battlin"' Bob Satterfield (Jackson), a former boxing contender who's now living on the streets of Denver. Erik believes that writing a story on Satterfield could be the big break he needs, providing him with a career launchpad.

Director Rod Lurie and screenwriters Michael Bortman and Allison Burnett based this tale on a true story, and parts of it do ring true. The explorations of the strained father-son dynamic and a message about redemption are well-done.

But there are a few crucial stumbles about midway through. A subplot featuring Teri Hatcher as a pay-cable executive probably should have been trimmed or cut out entirely.

Fortunately, both Hartnett and Jackson are good enough to help the film recover, and there are good supporting turns from Alda, David Paymer and Morris. And newcomer Goyo leaves a strong impression; he's a natural.

"Resurrecting the Champ" is rated PG-13 for scenes of boxing violence (as well as other brawling and fisticuffs), occasional strong profanity (including one use of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), brief gore, racial slurs, some suggestive language (slang) and brief drug references. Running time: 111 minutes.

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