Review: Draft Day
PLOT: The beleaguered general manager of the Cleveland Browns attempts to land a number one draft pick in the hopes of ending his teams thirteen-year losing streak.
REVIEW: Before MONEYBALL, I doubt anyone could have predicted that the business of sports could make for such intriguing entertainment. Typically, our sports movies take place on the field, with teamwork, perseverance, and game day heroics dominating the genre. Here, guys in suits who finagle, screw each other over, and toy with the destinies of the hottest potential players are our heroes. And you know what? It works.
While DRAFT DAY is no MONEYBALL (very few films are) its still pretty compelling material. Smartly written and easily decipherable even if you dont know a thing about the business of the NFL (which is certainly the case for me), DRAFT DAY is an eye-opening look into a world very few of us ever consider while watching our favorite teams play. A movie like this makes it seem like what happens in the boardroom is at least as important as what happens on the field, with one deviation in the calculation of a teams winning formula enough to destroy a clubs chances of success before even one game is played.
Star Kevin Costner has a knack for sports drama, and here hes well-utilized as the clever if ultimately honest Cleveland Browns GM, a feared figure made infamous by the fact that he sacked his own beloved coach father a few years before. With his father recently deceased, and his girlfriend/ colleague (Jennifer Garner) pregnant with his child, Costners playing a guy under the gun, with the team owner pressing him to pick up a hot draft pick quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence) , who hes unsure of. Meanwhile, he also has to contend with the egomaniacal new coach (Denis Leary) and the constant badgering of a controversial pick Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman) whos desperate to join the Browns so he can support his orphaned nephews.
DRAFT DAY feels like the kind of movie Costner might have made fifteen years ago when he was in his prime. The only issue with Costner doing it now is that, being fifty-nine, hes a bit old for the part which seems like it was written for a younger man. However, thats not too much of a problem as Costner looks a good ten years younger than he actually is, so he works in the part. While Jennifer Garner is sidelined a little too much in her smallish role to really make you invest in the B-plot of him being a reluctant father, when it comes to the biz parts of the movie (which dominate) Costner is very effective.
The film also marks a high-profile return behind the camera for director Ivan Reitman. Responsible for some of the funniest movies of the eighties (STRIPES, GHOSTBUSTERS), DRAFT DAY is a mostly serious departure. Its occasionally funny, but its not a comedy. Reitman does a good job making the business of the draft including the inside deal making between teams easy to follow. The only real problem with Reitmans direction is his goofy use of split-screen. While this is probably necessary for a movie that has people spending so much time on the phone, a gimmick where people move out of their portion of the screen and wave their hands or walk across the opposite portion gets tiresome. Its the kind of visual quirk thats going to date the movie in the years to come. Sometimes less is more, and one wishes this gimmick were dropped as its never cool and always distracting.
In addition to Costner, DRAFT DAY boasts a really solid supporting cast. Boseman, who made a big impression in last years sports-sleeper 42, has a good part as one of the more conscientious, if arrogant, players involved in the draft. Tom Welling, of SMALLVILLE fame, pops up as the Browns' quarterback who, at only thirty, is already seen as potentially being washed up. Learys his usual brash self as the fast-talking new coach, although the character isnt quite the cartoon you might assume given his early scenes. Even Sean Combs manages to impress in his small part as a slick sports agent out to net his client a multi-million dollar deal.
While DRAFT DAY is certainly not your typical sports movie, its certainly an intriguing one and should play well to the same audience that made MONEYBALL a hit. Its a pretty solid two hours of entertainment, and while the aforementioned split-screen gimmick is an eyesore, it doesnt distract too badly from whats overall a pretty good film. Its definitely worth seeing, and a good comeback part for Costner.