Stars: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Chadwick Boseman, Terry Crews, Dennis Leary, Ellen Burstyn, Chi McBride, Sean Combs, Josh Pence and Frank Langella
Director: Ivan Reitman
Scriptwriters: Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman
Composer: John Debney
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 111 minutes
Football (or any other professional sport for that matter) is a game in only what is placed before you to enjoy. Behind the scenes, it is a combination chess match and poker game. Talented managers and coaches know better how to play the game, or end up as barracuda bait out to dry somewhere in the 50 states or beyond. In Draft Day, Kevin Costner plays it cool. There is something in a football player he is looking for and that is integrity. Where and how to find it in a person? That is the gist of this movie and around it play sports statistics, attitudes, spying, maneuvering and dishonesty, summed up in one word, life.
Kevin Costner plays Sonny Weaver, Jr., whose famous sports father just passed away. Mom (Ellen Burstyn) thinks Junior doesn't live up to his father's striking sports attitude as a team manager for the Cleveland Browns. Sonny's girlfriend and team financial advisor (Jennifer Garner) has a secret for him. The Brown's coach (Denis Leary) is always on Sonny's back for not having a spine, and the rest of the staff pretty much think so, too. Dad was always right and they miss him.
It is Draft Time, when men are shuffled from team to team like indentured servants of long ago. Their abilities against their faults and are they First Place Draft Choices or Number 27 on the list? Sonny is offered someone his advisors think is the best quarterback ever, Callahan (Josh Pence) but Sonny is wary. In the meantime, he talks with other hopefuls, Vontae (Chadwick Boseman from "42") and Ray (Arian Foster.) Owner Frank Langella (sporting sunglasses a foot wide) wants things his way. Leary threatens to quit and the clock marches on as the other team managers get their ducks in a row. We go from big city stadium to big city stadium (Kansas City, Cleveland, Buffalo, Chicago, Seattle) and if you view this film in those cities, or others, expect a cheer from the audience. Actually, there isn't much football being played in this film, except for film footage from past games, as men check for competence on the field. This film is a mind game, and the scriptwriters invite you to come along and see if you can figure out the moves. Tension builds as each team has a certain number of minutes to grab their Draft Choice or negotiate something else. Watching the floor of the New York Stock Exchange is something like this and the entire cast goes along with it as the camera pans the room. There is a different kind of camera work in Draft Day, also, with the use of a split screen enabling characters to walk from one situation into another. Works well here.
Kevin Costner, with a mild manner, takes this role and runs with it. His face is inscrutable and only when alone, does he toss things around. Comic relief is provided by a new intern who isn't quite sure what is going on, but catches on fast, plus the nearby supply closet where some meetings are held. Jennifer Garner doesn't crack a smile, but wears a business suit and 5 inch heels with style, and that doesn't require acting. Denis Leary is the coach who comments first and thinks later. Sean Combs is Josh Pence's agent in this film, and Combs doesn't make an impression, while Pence does, as the quarterback everyone wants. Draft Day lets you look into the negotiating part of football and you come away wondering just how in the world it all manages to fit together.
Copyright 2014 Marie Asner
For more film reviews of sports films see the following:
The Snake & The Mongoose http://www.tollbooth.org/index.php/past-issues/past-movie-reviews/976-snake-and-mongoose-asner