Film Review: Resurrecting the Champ

4 stars
Resurrecting the Champ
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Josh Hartnett, Teri Hatcher, Alan Alda and Kathryn Morris. Directed by Rod Lurie. Released by Yari Film Group. Rated PG-13; 1:51.

There a few decent reasons for giving “Resurrecting the Champ” four stars instead of three. The first is that it is a film about boxing and I am a boxing fanatic. The second is Samuel L. Jackson. Third is the excellent journalism that unearthed this (based-on-a-true) story. Finally, there is director Rod Lurie. Lurie’s background as a film critic who made the upwardly mobile leap to screenwriting and directing (“The Contender” was great). He brings hope to some such as I.

    As boxing films go, this is not as good as some recent efforts —“Cinderella Man” or “Million Dollar Baby” — but, though less substantial, it is every bit as entertaining.

    The Sam Jackson part is easy. Jackson is perhaps not the finest actor around these days; he makes as many crappy films as good ones (this is one of the better ones). It must be said, though, that he is certainly one of the hardest working and most consistent. As the former contender and title character, he seems to be donning castoff apparel left over from “The Caveman’s Valentine,” but his performance is wonderful.

    Josh Hartnett is also effective as the journalist who discovers the old fighter living on the street, and his performance, too, is effective. The real gem of the supporting cast, however, is Alan Alda as Hartnett’s unhappy editor. Alda is always so much better when he ditches the nice guy persona (the liberal Hawkeye Pierce from the TV “M*A*S*H” for example) and allows himself to play a bad guy or a jerk as in “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” And here.

    The journalist who is most important to this story, though, is a man named J.R. Mochringer, who a few years ago wrote an article for the L.A. Times about a forgotten fighter, one Bob Satterfield. Satterfield was the Arthur Lee of heavyweights — brilliantly talented and largely overlooked.

    Yet one more reason to overpraise this modest summer entertainment.