Draft Day Directed by: Ivan Reitman Cast: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella Running Time: 1 hr 51 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: April 11, 2014 PLOT: A general manager of the Cleveland Browns (Costner) must draft the right former-collegiate players to give his team hopes of a good season.
WHO'S IT FOR? Caring about football would definitely be a huge plus for seeing this. Otherwise, expect something light.
A strong gut feeling says about telephone drama Draft Day that Ivan Reitman wanted to make a movie about football, because we love us some football, but he didn't want to get on the field. Instead, he looked inward, like 2012's Moneyball did, and decided to make a sports movie out of the guys who assemble the guys who chase the ball in question. In Draft Day, there are hotheads, sneak attacks strategies, trash talking, questionable game plans, and more.
Costner plays this movie's phone quarterback, a businessman who has to call the pre-season shots, and suffer any of the consequences projected in his direction. It's not the athletes are ultimately responsible for a team, even the Cleveland Browns, to reach the Super Bowl, but the one who puts them all together.
His character made into a resentful scapegoat for bad athletes, Costner carries the film's dramatic weight, which doesn't seem to be much. If he makes the wrong decision, the Browns will continue to lose, and people will just hate him more; desired players will simply sign a contract for another team, and another season will roll around in a year. Costner brings more to the role in terms of inherent charisma than the amount of whatever we can gain from his character. Throughout the movie's many business conversations, of which he is meant to have some bite, his eyes are dead, blank.
Costner's expressions aren't the only flat features in this Sunday drama. Draft Day continues the deficiencies indicative of any bad sports movie, in that simply showing the sport is given a higher priority than fitfully complicating the human beings filling in the outfits. Though potential draftees played by Chadwick Boseman and Josh Pence each bestow convincing swagger to divert the audience as to Sonny's final choices, such is shown useless when the film's sappy attitude for certain values eventually makes the plot's trajectory so obvious. The same can be said for those who battle Costner, their own characteristics drawn so clearly, the battle of two men trying to do their job becomes a tedious phone tag of good and evil.
Reitman's drama, balanced with tough guy romance, nerd-bashing comedy and a lot of team spirit, does pick up during its big game, the actual draft. When the draft is on-the-clock, (ten minutes for teams to finalize decisions or make their trades), it becomes the involving experience it yearns to be. Unfortunately it bungles that by using a cheap device in the screenwriting playbook, in which the script unnecessarily withholds Sonny's ultimate strategy simply for a twist's sake. Shame, as these zig-zags are really the only moments where this film gets interesting, albeit the awkward feeling where everything turns out exactly as it was headed an hour ago.
True to the little value that motivational poster topics like teamwork have to this script, Draft Day all but trashes endorsing this notion by its final score. The reasons to invest our team spirit into Sonny are chipped away from trying to admire his renegade joie de vivre to ultimately accepting that his gut is uniquely right, and his teammates matter second.
Sports movies are made for the reason of bringing audiences closer to the athlete's life and mindset, providing something more intimate than the coverage that can be seen for free every Sunday. Draft Day is the general manager's exhibition game, as seen from the stands, not in the trenches.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10