It’s a film about boxing. It’s a film about journalism. It’s a film about dads. It’s "Resurrecting The Champ," the new film from former film critic Rod Lurie, following a sports journalist (Josh Hartnett) who writes a piece about a homeless man who claims to be a once great pro boxer (Samuel L. Jackson). Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club finds the film another instance in which director Lurie "seems ambitious beyond his means," presenting "a story that works well, except when it’s loudly proclaiming its own emotional depth and significance… Champ is a solid effort with a lot going for it, but it suggests that Lurie still isn’t willing to relax and let viewers interpret his films, instead of telling them what they’re thinking and seeing." Roger Ebert is one of several to praise Jackson’s performance: "What a fine actor. He avoids pitfalls like making Champ a maudlin tearjerker, looking for pity. He’s realistic, even philosophical, about his life and what happened to him."
At the New York Times, Stephen Holden‘s fond of the journalism side of the film, which "captures the hard-boiled tone of a big-city newsroom almost perfectly," but finds that "As the story takes a predictable turn from disgrace toward redemption, the film sacrifices credibility for a weepy, pandering pseudosincerity." Well, Robert Wilsonsky at the LA Weekly calls the film "a great movie about journalism â€” maybe the best there ever was â€” because Resurrecting the Champ is mind-erasingly boring… Itâ€™s a knockout â€” if only because watching it will render you unconscious for nearly two hours."
Nick Pinkerton at indieWIRE sighs that "Whenever you’re dealing with the plot keywords "fathers and sons" and "sports," the potential for emotional molestation is daunting, and "Resurrecting the Champ" doesn’t defy any expectations on that count." And Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly writes that "speechy monologues on the responsibilities of journalism, the particular evil of infotainment, and the gooey sanctity of the bond between fathers and sons all but nullify Jackson’s zesty performance."
As a sidebar, this film does find that magical blank that is Josh Hartnett attracting some of the most backhanded good notices in recent memory. A sampling:
Holden: "For Mr. Hartnett, who has the most screen time, Erik is a much less demanding role than his policeman in ‘The Black Dahlia,’ a movie he almost single-handedly sank with his clueless, wooden performance. Playing a handsome, feckless journalist on the fast track to celebrity, he doesnâ€™t have much more to do than fill out the image of a gung-ho all-American dad with fixable character flaws."
Ebert: "Hartnett is efficient enough, but doesn’t have enough edges and angles on him to be a sportswriter. Robert Downey Jr. for sportswriter, Josh Hartnett for movie critic."
Pinkerton: "Hartnett’s work here isn’t surprising, really–who wants astonishment from Josh Hartnett?–but the actor does intent, unshowy work, ever sensitive to his boundaries as an actor."