Draft Day had been released this fall as opposed to this past spring? We're talking bad timing of mammoth proportions.
The 2014 NFL Draft is just hours away and teams around the league are scrambling to make the right move, to make a big move, to make a splash. High on that list? The Cleveland Browns, slotted in at No. 7 and with a lot of tough decisions ahead of the franchise, especially general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner). The morning of the draft, Browns owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella) all but threatens Sonny to hit a home run with the coming draft or get fired. What to do? Sonny has options, especially with the Seattle Seahawks call him offering the No. 1 draft pick. The asking price is pretty hefty -- three first-round draft picks -- but Sonny feels backed up against a wall. It's a tough call, but he pulls the trigger. The Browns have the No. 1 pick in the draft, now less than 12 hours away. With his job hanging in the balance, what will Sonny do? Who will he pick?
So why exactly did this sports flick flop at the box office last spring? Well, it reeks of being backed by the NFL and all its support. There are times it feels shoved down our throats about getting an inside look at the inner-workings of an NFL front office. From director Ivan Reitman, 'Draft' is a movie shot in swanky offices, conference rooms with dry-erase boards and lots of scouts, and one team office after another. It's dumbed down for even the most casual football fans -- "Seattle.....Home of the Seahawks" -- and never feels forced. It clocks in at 110 minutes and is enjoyable throughout. Just beware of all those real NFL cameos from Goodell to Chris Berman and Mel Kiper Jr. Potentially nauseating? Yes, basically at all times, but I liked it a lot just the same.
It's not the spectacle that works though. It's the smaller moments. Those windows where you feel you're actually getting an insight into an NFL team prepping for a draft. Sonny and the Browns are focusing on three players, the can't miss QB from Wisconsin, Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), the freakishly athletic LB from Ohio State, Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman), and the dual-threat RB from Florida State with some law issues, Ray Jennings (Houston Texans RB Arian Foster), who's got ties to the Browns via his father (Terry Crews), a former Browns superstar. Why does a team ultimately decide on their player? What detective work goes into it? Is it talent, character or drive? There are a couple great scenes where you feel you're getting some inside info, especially one trick several teams use concerning their playbook with potential rookie QBs.
Who better to lead an NFL franchise from the general manager spot than Kevin Costner? Trick question. No one. No one is better than Costner. It's been cool to see Costner jump back into regular acting roles from Jack Ryan to 3 Days to Kill to Man of Steel. He seems at ease in everything he does, bringing that cool, calculating charm to the screen with each role. Yeah, the personal drama with his salary cap analyst/girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) and his angry mom (Ellen Burstyn) and ex-wife (Rosanna Arquette) don't work as well as the football drama but that's to be expected. Costner is cool even if he's dealing with some hammy, forced personal and family issues. He's a G.M. trying to piece it all together with about a thousand different options at his disposal. Welcome back, Kevin Costner. We're glad to have you!
Also look for Denis Leary as the a-hole new head coach, Tom Welling as the Browns' incumbent quarterback, Sam Elliott as Callahn's college coach at Wisconsin, Patrick St. Espirit and Chi McBride as the Seahawks' GM and President, Kevin Dunn as a Browns official, Sean Combs as Callahan's all-powerful agent, and NFL/Cleveland legends Jim Brown and Bernie Kosar appearing briefly as themselves.
Things get a little goofy at times once the draft comes around in the final act. There's an epic case of luck as Weaver makes a decision that should have doomed his career as a G.M. and possibly the Browns as a franchise too in terms of player personnel. Is it a cool ending? Sure, Costner gets to flex his muscles with one twist after another. A little too tidy? Oh, yes, very much, but it works. Oddly enough....it's not too far from what the Browns actually did in the 2014 draft. Did this movie see into the future?!? Meh, that's too much thinking involved. It's a good, not great movie, that's an enjoyable way to pass two hours. An easy flick to watch and be entertained with.
Draft Day (2014): ***/****