The biggest worry I expect people to have going into “Draft Day” is whether or not they’ll know enough about the NFL, the daft, and how it all works.
I’m not a humungous football guy that knows the sport through and through, merely a casual fan; that’s irreverent, though. You don’t have to be a fan of the game to enjoy this movie. One of the best aspects about “Draft Day” is how it manages to be entertaining even if you don’t particularly care for the NFL. Reitman directs with such a zippy energy, and the scennplay – which is written by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph – makes clear who the various characters are, and their relationship with the game. This really could have been anything. Overall, this is about the day in the life of Sonny, and him doing his job; that job just so happens to be football related.
Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) is the GM for the Cleveland Browns, and he’s put the team’s future on the line by trading away the Browns first round draft picks for the next three years to the Seattle Seahawks, in a desperation move to jump from the seventh pick in the draft, to the first. Everyone anatomically assumes this means it’s a lock Wisconsin quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence) will be picked since he’s the consensus number one. Now, with twelve hours left before the draft, Sonny has to make sure Bo is the kind of player he wants on his team. Despite what everyone thinks, is there something amiss with this guy? The owner (Frank Langella) and coach (Denis Leary) both want different things from him; Sonny eventually comes to the conclusion he’ll either have to go with his job security or his gut.
I really love seeing a behind the scenes look at a sport; find it way more interesting following a general manager, rather than a player. When you get down to it. The plot is about a man getting the Cleveland Browns on the correct path going forward. There are so many ways to accomplish this, and none are a guarantee. Similar to what “Moneyball” was to baseball, this is about how a team’s general manager, coaches, and owners have different interests that make their sport more complicated than the average fan sees. “Draft Day” isn’t on the same level as “Moneyball,” and is less cerebral. Still, it has that entertaining element. The script moves effortlessly (when it’s not pausing a sec for a quick subplot scene that is) and accomplishes a lot. Enjoyed the back and forth conversations, and none of the dialog was overly cheesy. It’s knowledgeable and humorous, also doing a fantastic job of getting you to root for Sonny. I got into the movie from the start because it was easy to root for our underdog protagonist. They truly pile it on this guy, to an extreme degree, was waiting for him to explode.
With as much conflict that comes naturally from the story, I wish “Draft Day” didn’t feel the need to shoehorn in subplots that weren’t needed. It felt like the makers didn’t have the faith that the football aspect alone was a big enough draw. I’m not saying completely throw all of that away, but most of it wasn’t necessary, and caused the movie to drag in the middle. At two hours, “Draft Day” is fifteen minutes too long. I understand the need for character development, but this was one of the rare cases where it wasn’t crucial to have much; we got the perfect amount by simply watching him at work. Most of it basically amounted to filler, when the movie could have been a lean, mean, hour-and-a-half. Again, a little would have been fine, but we didn’t need like six scenes of Costner bringing Garner into a room to tell her something secret and emotional. Most of those scenes had a sitcom-y vibe that brought things to a halt. They overplayed the personal stuff, but only stopped the flow for a short time.
The prospect of an Ivan Reitman film doesn’t have the same draw as it once had, but he’s still a capable director. His work with actors is still kicking. I’m glad to see Kevin Costner back in the mainstream, “Draft Day” is the third major project Costner has stared in this year (after “Jack Ryan: shadow Recruit” and “3 Days to Kill”), and finally got the right role along with material that played to his strengths. He is great, anchoring the movie with his performance. Costner is the star of the show, but there’s also a ridiculous supporting cast that includes: Jenifer Garner (enjoyed her character as she was a strong, smart business woman), Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Ellen Burstyn, and Terry Crews, in a shockingly dynamic role. Reitman sets in place a fun and breezy atmosphere that kept a good pace. The only real complaint, is he overuses split-screens. It begins on an intriguing note, with one side transitioning beyond the division of the split-screen. Then it starts to happen repeatedly, sometimes multiple instances in one scene. It was a neat visual device with the intention of adding to normal cell phone conversations, but another, less distracting technique should have been explored.
The best part of the movie by far, is the draft. The build up throughout the single day set the groundwork, and boy did it pay off. It was electric, exciting, and was surprisingly full of tension. The stakes were high, and you feel that. All the pressure Sonny faced from the moment he wakes, comes to a head. Even though I thought there was unnecessary parts before the climax, the ending delivered. “Draft Day” ends stronger then it begins. Now, it’s important to do both, but if only one can be achieved, it’s better to end with a bang then fizzle out. At the half way point, I wasn’t sure how I felt, but the draft was redeeming, and had me looking back on everything in a positive light – left the theater happy. “Draft Day” isn’t Oscar worthy like “Moneyball,” but is capable of connecting with audiences delivering a feel good experience.