Journalism and ethics are at the forefront of this compelling drama based on reporter J.R. Moehtinger’s article “Battling Bob Satterfield” published May 4, 1997.
The script well describes the two main characters, Erik (Josh Hartnett) and “The Champ” (Samuel Jackson), who come from different walks of life, but are united by isolation and failures, as well as by dreams and aspirations. Both men live a lie and only when confronted with each other’s mirror image they begin coping with the truth.
Director Rod Lurie well paces the movie’s intensity through the dramatic turn of events. While character development touches on family relationships in the first half, the biggest punch is delivered in the second half of the movie accentuating ethical dilemmas in reporting.
Captivating is Samuel Jackson’s exceptional performance. Unlike his traditional strong-willed characterizations, Jackson undergoes a drastic transformation. Through voice and mannerism he entirely inhabits the role of a homeless and delivers a remarkably believable portrayal.
The feature’s authentic flavor is enhanced by the shooting locations. Though set in Denver, the film was shot at the Calgary Herald in a real newsroom to capture that genuine spirit of real news room scenes, and “the actual hustle and bustle that goes on in such a place,” says director Lurie, “we didn’t even ask people to stop working while we filmed and some of the real staffers actually found themselves in the movie.”
Other scenes were shot at The Mustard Seed’s homeless shelter, where approximately forty of its residents and guests were hired as extras.
Complementing the movie’s intensity is Adam Kane’s beautiful cinematography showing the fierce boxing scenes.
The feature is based on the factual events of the young Denver Times’ sports reporter, Erik Kernan. Following the footsteps of a famous father hasn’t been easy for him. Expectations are high as Erik is often reminded by his tough newspaper editor Metz (Alan Alda) to write articles with more distinction and impact.
The opportunity Erik was seeking to redefine himself and prove his potential came his way one night. While passing by a dark alley, Erik encounters a gang of thugs beating up a man, “The Champ”, the legendary boxer Bob Satterfield, now elderly and homeless.
The inspirational message of the story is not as much about the professional journey and lessons relayed, but even more so about resurrecting the champ within us.