THE TRAILER for Resurrecting the Champ, which opens nationwide this Friday, ends with a voice-over by Josh Hartnett, who plays a sportswriter in the film: "A writer, like a boxer, must stand alone. The truth is revealed, and there's nowhere to hide." It's an interesting statement, for it has the ring of truth, but it does not jibe with reality.
Boxing, in fact, is a place where men have often hidden, in plain sight, under an assumed identity, an idea that Resurrecting (considering that line in the trailer) seemingly sets out to explore. The movie is based on a 1997 Los Angeles Times Magazine article by J.R. Moehringer, who wrote about Tommy Harrison, a homeless man in Santa Ana, Calif., who for decades passed himself off as Bob Satterfield, a heavyweight of some repute in the 1940s and '50s. A decent fighter in his own right, Harrison, at his manager's urging, boxed under Satterfield's name and continued to say he was the more famous fighter until Moehringer came along.
In Resurrecting, Hartnett plays a character who, for a time, falls for the lies of a grizzled old man (Samuel L. Jackson) who claims to be Satterfield. Hartnett believes because "Battling Bob's" stories are good—he once broke Rocky Marciano's nose!—and because he sees his boozy interlocutor as a source of career-making copy.
The film to this point has potential as a study in how fighters can, and often must, believe their own lies, and how nonfighters often prefer a legend over the untidy truth. As Moehringer pointed out, Joyce Carol Oates wrote in her 1987 book On Boxing, "One of the primary things boxing is about is lying. It's about systematically cultivating a double personality: the self in society, the self in the ring."
But director Rod Lurie (The Contender) doesn't go down those roads, at least not far enough. As soon as Hartnett realizes he's been duped and tries to keep the stunt from ruining his career, the film stops being about boxing and becomes a second-rate journalistic thriller, a wannabe Shattered Glass. Too bad: Given the depth of the character in Moehringer's story, Resurrected coulda been a contendah.
I DREAM IN BLUE opens in an unlikely location for a sports memoir—a lawyer's office, as author Roger Director and his wife, Jan, are working out the details of their will. When asked who they would choose to become legal guardian of their daughter, Jan dutifully offers a list of relatives. Director names Tiki Barber. So begins Director's exploration of his obsession with the New York Giants and why it has become more intense as he advances toward late middle age. Director, a television writer and producer whose credits include NCIS, Mad about You and Moonlighting, spent much of the 2006 season following his favorite team and interviewing players like Barber and Jeremy Shockey—modern-day counterparts, in Director's eyes, of heroes of his youth such as Frank Gifford and Andy Robustelli. Director finds that his fixation on Big Blue is a grasp at the vanishing vestiges of his youth. This is hardly a major revelation, but Director develops the idea with a humanity and humor that even a Redskins fan could appreciate.
¬©2007 YARI FILM GROUP RELEASING (HARNETT AND JACKSON, POSTER)
BUM RAP Hartnett (left) and Jackson never fully explore why the Champ lied.