Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Draft Day: Movie Review

Costner is back on his game and it's enjoyable but predictable.
“Draft Day” takes place on the day of the NFL draft. We start in Seattle where the Seahawks have the number one pick and are sitting pretty. They could be sitting even prettier if they can find a city desperate enough and dumb enough to trade away their entire future for a possible franchise player. So the action shifts to Cleveland. The championship-less city is a good choice to be the butt of the jokes. The underdog Ohioans don’t mind. 2014

Directed by: Ivan Reitman

Screenplay by: Scott Rothman, Rajiv Joseph

Starring: Kevin Costner, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner and Denis Leary

Photo: Dale Robinette ©2013 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.
Action is a bit of a misstatement. It’s a sports movie without much sport to it. It’s also a ticking clock movie with a literal ticking clock but without any of the suspense that comes with a ticking clock. The Cleveland GM is Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) and he now has the number one pick and has to choose between the star quarterback he doesn’t know (Bo Callahan (Josh Pence)) and the volatile defensive tackle whom he could have taken with his later pick (Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman)). There is a slight error in the writing with Vontae. At first he’s used as part of a joke of NFL athletes’ on-going legal troubles. He’s described as a model citizen up until an assault and battery charge that landed another guy in the hospital. But later he really is portrayed as a model citizen. Perhaps I misread the earlier joke but in which case the movie was missing a much-needed commentary on NFL players who have a tendency to assault whomever they feel like.

As a sports drama, it falls in between “Moneyball” (2011) and “Trouble with the Curve” (2012), but much closer to the latter since it’s missing the excellent writing and Jennifer Garner’s tomboy character is eerily similar to Amy Adams’ Mickey. The storylines of Sonny’s personal life were handled well, mostly because very little time was spent on them. After all, this is the day of the NFL draft and the GM shouldn’t have time for anything else other than figuring out the short-term and long-term future of his team. Unfortunately that part is the easy part, especially for the audience. The movie made it very clear exactly what was going to happen; the elements of surprise and suspense were missing. Predictability is a major factor in an otherwise very enjoyable day at the draft. It was probably done on purpose in a deliberate attempt to keep the characters clear and simple, to keep actual sports talk and strategy on the back-burner, so the film can be followed and enjoyed by every non-sports fan alike.

KEVIN COSTNER stars in DRAFT DAY. Photo: Dale Robinette
© 2013 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
It has been 15 years since Kevin Costner has starred in a sports movie (unless you count “The Guardian” from 2006) and it’s about time that Hollywood found a way to bring him back into the mix. There’s a certain comfort level achieved when a likable actor is starring in his bread and butter, and for the first time in years (at least 8 to be exact), Costner didn’t look like he was trying, he was just doing. His character’s job was to determine which future stars should be given that opportunity on this particular day, and that’s clearly what the Hollywood PR machine decided to do as well. Chadwick Boseman plays the likable, but volatile and unproven Vontae Mack. While last year he played the legendary Jackie Robinson in “42”. If you want to guess where his career is supposed to be headed, just take a look at Costner in the 90s.

Director Ivan Reitman put a unique spin on the draft day phone calls by employing a sliding split screen. It added a nice visual flair although it has been seen by some as an annoying unnecessary distraction. The very end of the movie tried to shake things up as well. It can be viewed as too little, too late, but it was still enjoyable and provided the feel-good nature that these types of popcorn movies need.

Similar Titles:

Moneyball (2011) - More than a game of numbers.

Trouble with the Curve (2012) - One great character, good comedic chemistry, but many simple turns.