Draft Day takes on the challenging task of balancing the sports-nerd event that is the NFL draft with a story that the average, non-football fan can take in. The results are mixed, with the verbal battles between the general managers making for far better entertainment than the sappy and under-cooked personal drama. While certainly not on the level of 2011’s Moneyball, the film remains a compelling, if moderately cliched and predictable, look at the politics of a day that changes lives and teams.
Kevin Costner stars as Sonny Weaver, Jr., GM of the stumbling Cleveland Browns (are they ever not?). It’s the day before the draft and Sonny is approached by the GM of the Seattle Seahawks, who are in possession of the number one pick (kind of awkward considering they just won the Super Bowl in reality, but whatever), looking for a potential trade. Without consulting his staff, Sonny trades away three number one picks presumably for the consensus number one overall pick, a “can’t miss” quarterback named Bo Callahan (Josh Pence). The move angers the Browns brass as Weaver begins to question his own decision. On top of that, he must balance the news of becoming a father and the death of his father, a Browns legend who passed away a week earlier.
Draft Day is at its finest when dealing with the nitty-gritty of player assessment, draft value, and the verbal barbs traded among the GM’s as they attempt to wheel and deal before and during the draft. The scenes involving prospective athletes lobbying their case (dropping even a few picks can mean potentially losing millions of dollars) also work and add a new wrinkle to an already stressful event. Clogging up the narrative works are the details of Weaver’s personal life. He’s about to have a baby with the team’s salary cap specialist (Garner) and his mother (Burstyn) is in town to spread the ashes of his father, who died the week before. Complicating matters further is the fact that Weaver had fired his own dad shortly before his death. While the goal is to add human interest, it all feels fairly corny and glossed over.
The Costner renaissance continues, and he’s excellent in the lead role. He’s bold in his moves and convincing in his handling of the ego-driven coach (Leary) and anxious owner (Langella), who is looking for a “splash,” but maybe not as big as the one Weaver has in store. Director Ivan Reitman and his screenwriters keep things moving nicely, even if the constantly panning camerawork grows old quickly. Draft Day is a passable sports drama for those interested in the behind-the-scenes hi-jinks of the title event. For everyone else, there’s not much to see.
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Length: 109 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language and sexual references.
Theatrical Release: April 11, 2014
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Scott Rothman & Rajiv Joseph
Cast: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Ellen Burstyn, Frank Langella