Movie Review

Film Review: DRAFT DAY (2014): Ivan Reitman renders the NFL Accessible

Kevin Costner Draft Day Movie Poster

Draft Day (2014Film Reviewa movie directed by Ivan Reitman, and starring Kevin CostnerJennifer GarnerDenis LearyFrank LangellaEllen BurstynChadwick BosemanJosh PenceArian FosterTom Welling, Griffin NewmanTimothy Simons Wade WilliamsTerry CrewsSean Combs, Kevin DunnSam Elliott.

In his first film in three years, veteran director Ivan Reitman (of Ghostbusters fame) aims to entertain and delivers a film that will please National Football League (NFL) fans without leaving the mere casual (non-)observer (such as myself) behind.

The film takes place entirely on NFL Draft Day 2014 and follows Sonny Weaver, Jr. (Kevin Costner), the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. The previous general manager of the team was his father, and Jr. has been trying to live up to his father’s legacy for three years. The team has never really been his, and he is determined to make a splash and mold a team of his own through the 2014 NFL Draft.

On his way to the office that morning he listens to the assault of his character on the radio while fielding calls from potential draft picks. He also unexpectedly receives a call from Tom Michaels, general manager of the Seattle Seahawks, who desires to trade his team’s number one draft pick for the Browns’ round one picks for the next two years. Weaver, Jr., balks at the idea. After a conversation with the Browns’ owner, Anthony Molina (Frank Langella), he reconsiders. Excruciatingly (and unilaterally) he trades the Browns’ first round picks for the next three years for the night’s first pick. When he informs his management team, they recoil at the trade but are satisfied with being able to pick up the night’s hottest commodity: quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), the year’s Heisman Trophy winner.

With this unexpected prospect, the management team races against the clock to look into Callahan’s past which, on the surface, seems clean. Meanwhile, throughout the day, Weaver, Jr., fields calls from two other players: the underrated but undisciplined defensive player Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman), whose best tapes reveal a weakness in Callahan, and Ray Jennings (Arian Foster), a running-back with a minor criminal history but whose father had once played for the Browns.

At the same time, Weaver, Jr., fights off complaints from seemingly every corner of his world: a nagging mother, Barb (Ellen Burstyn), who walks in carrying his father’s ashes; a pregnant mistress, Ali (Jennifer Garner) who works on the Browns’ legal team; an angry Brown’s coach, Coach Penn (Denis Leary), who is fed up with Weaver, Jr.’s, one-sided decision making; and an insecure quarterback, Brian Drew (Tom Welling), who thinks he’s about to be replaced. All the while his cell phone rings incessantly.

As the time counts down to Draft Day 2014, Weaver, Jr., weaves a strategic that even the audience doesn’t quite understand. When the clock strikes zero, and the Draft starts, who will Weaver, Jr., pick? What will the fates of the potential picks be? Where do the Cleveland Browns – and Weaver, Jr.’s legacy – go from here?

This film is better than it ought to be. The script has a fair amount of problems, mainly the juggling of too many subplots and characters. Many starring roles feel like cameos, none more so than Ellen Burstyn, who has precious little screen time. While the film understandably sticks to the management side of the teams, it would’ve been nice to see more of how the draft affected the teams’ established players and potential draft picks; albeit, the film does take place in less than twenty-four hours.

The film was created in cooperation with the NFL, which has provoked some criticism that the film is propaganda; the League is known for interfering with less-than-flattering portrayals of its policies, practices, and opaque style, most recently in the Frontline television documentary League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis (which can be viewed in its entirety by clicking the link).

Still, the film is a continuation of sorts for star Kevin Costner, who has delivered yet another sports film following Bull Durham (1989), Field of Dreams (1989), Tin Cup (1996), and For the Love of the Game (1999). He is certainly in his element here and seems to enjoy playing the tortured general manager.

The film also employs what is sure to be a copied editing style that works well with the material here; a prevalent and constantly-moving split-screen technique in which characters intrude into another’s space gives a subtle clue as to who has the upper hand in the negotiations currently playing out on screen.


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About the author

Drew Stelter

Drew is a 26-year-old film buff. A native Utahan, he attends the Sundance Film Festival annually. He is a member of the Salt Lake Film Society. In a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he attended the Oscars Red Carpet on March 2, 2014, after winning an essay contest through the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. At any given time he can be expected to be conversing via movie quote GIFs.

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