When Kevin Costner speaks, people listen.
At least that’s what the movie Draft Day is banking on, a sports drama trying to capitalize on the nationwide craze that surrounds the National Football League draft, where college athletes are drafted to play professional football.
In reality, it’s a day that bleeds drama. It’s where youth athletes’ lives are made, and where executives on NFL teams make decisions that define their career. And surrounding it is a growing nationwide phenomenon of interest, amplified by sports television networks’ grandiose coverage of the event.
It’s no surprise a movie was made that revolves around the day. In fact, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.
But that drama alone isn’t quite enough for Draft Day.
Kevin Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, a team that has endured losing and suffering more than any other professional franchise, sans the Chicago Cubs. As GM, it’s his job to make a successful draft pick that turns around the team’s fortune, or “makes a splash,” in the words of his boss and team owner, Anthony Molina, portrayed by Frank Langella.
On top of that, Weaver’s dad, who was a longtime coach for the Browns, just died a week ago. Furthermore, he actually fired his dad before he died.
Not enough drama for you? Oh, he just found out his girlfriend — also a team accountant — is pregnant. This is all revealed in the film’s first five minutes, so I didn’t spoil anything for you.
His girlfriend, by the way, is played by Jennifer Garner, who handles the “this girl is too hot to be interested in football” role fairly well, but lacks any chemistry with Costner, therefore not really making their relationship all that believable.
Anyway, the movie takes place in one day — draft day. It tries hard to convey the immense pressure felt on such a day, by both the prospective draftees and the executives alike — and does that pretty well. It also glamorizes the game of football, as expected, while doing a good job portraying the media circus that’s become the NFL draft. ESPN anchors and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell make appearances throughout the film.
Those who like sports will enjoy the show. I don’t really think it transcends the genre, like 2011’s Moneyball, which really had an interesting story that went beyond baseball.
But the film is made during about a 10-minute sequence later in the film, when Weaver attempts to talk and manipulates his way out of a hole inside the team’s war room. If it wasn’t for that sequence, the movie would have been a pretty big dud.
And that’s where the mystique of Kevin Costner is necessary. Not many movies have a climax that involves somebody simply talking, but … he pulls it off. A relatively unknown actor would have never stood a chance.
I should note the film is also aided by Denis Leary, who plays the team’s haughty coach, offering a nice foil to Costner’s more steadfast character.
Sports fans can go ahead and give Draft Day a go. Any one else, though, may not be interested enough in the subject matter to wait for the whole thing to play out.