“Draft Day” is an odd movie — not because it’s thought-provoking or unique but because I’m not exactly sure why it was made in the first place. It’s clearly a love letter to the NFL, specifically a love letter to the Cleveland Browns. The story revolves around the 2014 NFL draft, and the Browns team is trying to transform itself into a better team.
I’ll admit I’m not an NFL fan, but will non-Cleveland Browns fans care whether the team transforms itself? The trouble is, “Draft Day” isn’t done well: It’s rather bland and tells a predictable, slightly corny story that’s ultimately about going with your gut.
Kevin Costner stars as Browns’ general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. The NFL draft is drawing near, and he finds himself under a lot of pressure.
One day he gets a call — about 80 percent of the movie involves phone calls — from the GM for the Seattle Seahawks, which has the first pick of the draft at the moment, offering to make a deal: Sonny can have the first pick and the projected No. 1 draft pick Bo Callahan (Josh Pence) in exchange for relinquishing future first-round draft picks.
It’s a tough decision, but Sonny goes for it because it could mean improvement for the team. But does Sonny really think Callahan is the best pick? Or should he go with other aspiring NFL players like Vontane Mack (Chadwick Bosman)? And so goes “Draft Day,” a movie full of heated exchanges between Sonny and other members of the Browns’ staff, such as the owner (played by Frank Langella), and last-minute deals with other teams and second-guessing. Practically all of Costner’s performance is giving in to peer pressure and flipping back and forth between decisions.
“Draft Day” does shed light on an aspect of football that we don’t normally see in football movies. There’s clearly a lot of stress and strategy involved in the NFL draft, but the movie doesn’t really give the audience much reason to care about any of it. The screenplay by Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman gets bogged down in a lot of dry facts and stats concerning college players.
“Moneyball” gave us a reason to care about how baseball players were selected and traded by depicting a fascinating and entertaining tension between the old-timer scouts who believed in picking players using their gut and the younger fellows who wanted to use computer programs to select players. “Draft Day” doesn’t have much tension, as it really just comes down to what Sonny thinks is the best move.
And for all of the last-minute deals that are made and the various attempts at drama, “Draft Day” offers very few surprises. The story progresses exactly how you’d expect it to, and you can see Sonny’s final decision coming from a mile away.
Costner gives a perfectly average performance — not all that captivating. In fact, that’s a good way to describe the entire movie. The picture seems to be lacking in energy, with everyone involved not giving you much reason to care about what’s happening.
As directed by veteran comedy director Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters”), the film contains a few chuckle-worthy moments, but overall, the attempts at humor feel restrained, probably due to the film’s PG-13 rating.
Even when actors like Ellen Burstyn (as Sonny’s feisty mother) and Dennis Leary (as the Browns’ jerk of a coach who’s at odds with Sonny for practically the entire film) show up, they seem like they’re holding back. Only once near the end does the movie and Costner’s performance breathe any kind of real life.
Ultimately, non-football fans won’t like it, and hardcore football fans won’t want to see a watered-down dramatization of the NFL draft, especially if they’re not Cleveland fans or even Seahawk fans.
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