MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Draft Day’ proves to be a middle round choice

MV5BMjAyOTMxMjA3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTMwNjQ4MDE@._V1_SX214_AL_If the movie “Draft Day” were an NFL draft pick, like the trio of players it builds its main storyline around, it would be lucky to be taken in the third or fourth round.

In other words, it’s good … but not great.

“Draft Day” is the story of Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (played by Kevin Costner) and the 12 hours leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft. It weaves its main story around  three prospective picks — Bo Callahan, the consensus No. 1 pick and dream boat quarterback; Vontae Mack, the outstanding linebacker that nobody wants to build a team around; and Ray Jennings, the running back who had gotten himself into just enough trouble to have a red flag posted next to his name.

The question is, “Who will the Browns take in the NFL Draft?”

Right off the bat, Weaver is forced into a trade he doesn’t really want to make in order to get the No. 1 pick in the  entire draft. For the next 12 hours, he struggles with what decisions he needs to make, both professionally and personally. After all, he also has an at-work girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) who is pregnant, and he is dealing with the recent death of his dad, Sonny Weaver Sr., and a Draft Day visit from his mom and ex-wife.

In other words, Weaver is having a rough day, and being the GM of the lowly Cleveland Browns is just a part of it.

Costner, as Weaver, is … well, he’s Kevin Costner. That’s my beef with him. He’s the same person in every single movie he’s ever been and that’s what annoys me about him as an actor.

Marcus Summers (American Flyers), Bull Durham (Crash Davis), Ran Kinsella (Field of Dreams), or Roy McAvoy (Tin Cup)? They’re all Kevin Costner in a sports movie, just like Costner is Costner in all his non-sports movies, too.

Costner’s greatest acting role might have been Alex, the dead friend at the start of the classic movie, “The Big Chill.” While you might remember the film and the character, you probably don’t remember Costner’s performance, only because he ended up on the cutting room floor.

“Draft Day” is certainly adequately acted, though nobody will be making Oscar-night plans for this film.

Highlights include:

• Chadwick Bozeman as Mack. Bozeman is one of Hollywood’s hottest actors right now. He has been since bursting onto the scene in another sports movie, portraying Jackie Robinson in “42.” He’s also got a film coming out in which he channels his inner James Brown in “Get On Up.” He portrays all the emotions Mack goes through, capturing the highs and lows of a true draft day perfectly.

• Dennis Leary as Coach Penn, the former Dallas Cowboys head coach who is hired by the Browns. When Leary was first introduced on screen as the team’s coach, my believe-ability factor was way down. I just didn’t see him as a coach at all. Fireman, maybe. Coach? No go. By the end of the film, though, when Leary makes one final important phone call, you know it’s a coach calling a perspective player.

• Griffin Newman as Rick the Intern. You might wonder who the heck Griffin Newman is. I know I did. He’s primarily one of the supporting actors who supplies a bit of comic relief to the film, but he plays the part with such emotion that he becomes one of the characters who really jumps of the screen. After his computer is broken, Rick the Intern and Weaver have a nice moment that leaves you with a smile.

Again, all the actors are solid and decent — all middle round draft picks, if you will. Even Sean Combs — AKA rap star Puffy Daddy — is decent in his role as Bo Callahan’s agent.

The film is also full of cameos, mostly sports figures from the television world (Chris Berman and Jon Gruden from ESPN, Rich Eisen from the NFL Network, etc.) and some former NFL stars (James Brown, Bernie Kosar), and it does help bring an air of reality to the movie.

Parts of the movie were actually filmed during the 2013 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall, bringing an especially fluid feel to the tone down the stretch.

One other interesting aspect of the film was the rather unique way they filmed split screens during phone conversations between Weaver and his NFL counterparts throughout the league. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what the technical jargon for the technique is called, but it was easy on the eyes.

The ending is rather predictable, but it’s an interesting journey on how Weaver gets to his final decision. And how he turns the tables on some of his earlier draft day decisions certainly lead to a Hollywood ending that won’t surprise anybody.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason why “Draft Day” was just good.

 

 

 

 

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