You thought on-the-field was tough? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, ya pansy soccer fan!
Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) has it pretty rough for a man of his age and stature. He’s the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, a team that hasn’t been all that successful in quite some time; his girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) may possibly be pregnant; and to add insult to injury, the most important day in all of sports history, next to the Super Bowl of course, is coming up: Draft day. Oh yes, the NFL draft. Where dreams are both shattered and made, sometimes, even occurring at the same time. For Sonny though, his main problem isn’t just dealing with his boss (Frank Langella), the head coach (Denis Leary), or even the main-prospect he’s looking into (Chadwick Boseman), the main problem he’s having is getting the deal he wants, while also making sure that everyone around him is happy with his dealings at the end of the day. Not just him, or his co-workers, but the franchise as a whole. Which, if you know a thing or two about any sport whatsoever, is a lot easier said, then actually done.
I’d probably say that the biggest worry somebody will have when going into this movie is whether or not they know enough about the NFL, the draft, how it all works, and why it all matters. To put it simple, it’s like this: College ball-players get a chance to be drafted onto any NFL team that is actually in the draft, which also leaves these teams’ managers, scouters, whatever, to start making all sorts of deals and promises that they can’t clearly keep. But basically, what you have is a bunch of guys who bicker at one another, doing whatever they can to make sure the team they represent gets the best player, or, even more important, the better deal.
So, if you know all of that going into the movie, you have nothing at all to worry about. All you have to do now is just sit back and watch, because for the next two-hours, you’ll be treated to a bunch of grown-ups arguing, wheeling, dealing, yelling and do whatever the hell they can to make sure that they aren’t getting screwed-over in any way. The idea for the premise to revolve around that may seem pretty boring, which is why director Ivan Reitman throws in so many different strands of plot, but somehow, it actually works.
I’m not a huge football-fanatic, but I had my time where Sunday was dedicated to sitting in front of the TV, with chips, soda and my dad by my side. And that was before you all got spoiled with your RedZone, so don’t even give me any lip! Anyway, one of the events that got me more jazzed-up than the Superbowl, was actually the NFL Draft. Reason being is that for so damn long, about a year ahead in advance, there are so many predictions about how it is all exactly going to go down, in what particular fashion, that I couldn’t help but want to just wait and see what went down, and see if all of the predictions were absolutely right, or just a bunch of sports-writers getting too wild and crazy for their pay-grade.
That same feeling I had way back when, translated into my feelings with this movie, as I really did have no clue where this story was going to go, in terms of who Sonny was going to sign, who he was going to lose, if he was going to be fired, and whether or not everybody involved with the organizations would get what it is that they initially wanted. Not only did that keep me watching and interested, but it made everything else that was happening to Sonny, easier to get past, as poorly-written as most of it was. See, this is the type of movie where having Sonny deal with the problems that usually run rampant in a manager’s head come draft-time, isn’t enough. Instead, we need to have all these sorts of different subplots where Sonny is mean to interns; may possibly be a daddy; doesn’t pay his child-support; isn’t pleasing his mommy as much as he should; and so on and so forth.
While all of that may create more stuff to be happening during this movie, barely any of it feels worth our time. More often than not, it just feels like filler for a movie that could have easily been a lean, mean, hour-and-a-half indie in the same vein as Margin Call or Glengarry Glen Ross. Actually, there are times when this movie does feel very “Mamet-y” in the way the dialogue moves most of the plot, and how so many grown-up men love just being dirty and not always being honest when in circling-around a deal. Those moments of this movie not only rang true for me, but genuinely had me entertained. Sometimes, the conversations these guys have are funny; they’re sometimes insightful; and hell, even sometimes, they’re a bit emotional. But they always add something more to this story, which is where I feel like mostly everything else here doesn’t.
Most of what does work here can definitely be attributed to the fact that Reitman allows for these scenes of just straight-up dialogue, flow and roll as they please. However though, most of that definitely has to be attributed to the well-stacked ensemble Reitman was somehow able to assemble here, particularly Kevin Costner. I’m glad to see K-Cost back in the mainstream, however, 3 Days to Kill was not that type of movie I wanted him doing. It was fine and all (and the same could be said for him), however, that movie had more problems than it needed to have. Here though, Costner is actually given some good material worthy of his talents where he gets plenty to do. He gets a chance to be mean and a bit vindictive; funny when he’s using that comedic-timing of his that is almost nonexistent, but he somehow is always able to get by with; a bit romantic when he has some painlessly-cheesy scenes with Jennifer Garner; and even has a couple of moments as Sonny where he drops the facade of the hardcore, take-no-prisoners businessman, and just lets us see a heart and soul to this guy. The movie could have easily gone in a different direction with this character and had him come-off as flat as a football field itself (hayyoh!), but it doesn’t. It keeps its focus on him, who he is as a person, the type of person he wants to be, and how he gets by in the world.
Like I said though, K-Cost is just the beginning of the familiar-faces in this movie. There’s plenty more where he came from and they are all pretty damn fine. The previously mentioned Garner is alright as Sonny’s co-worker/lover/possible-baby-momma, who has to be a bit cute, a bit feisty, and a bit ballsy to make us believe that she could easily hang around a guy’s sport like football, all of which, Garner does a nice job with. She’s not annoying, let’s just put it that way.
Others include Denis Leary as the Cleveland Browns football coach that barely ever sees eye-to-eye with Sonny, yet, does have plenty of ground to stand on and make us see why; Ellen Burstyn is charming and lovely as Sonny’s mommy, who is clearly still grieving over the death of her husband, Sonny’s dad that he can’t seem to get out of the shadow of; Chadwick Boseman shows us why he is on the verge of near super-stardom right now with his role as a possible NFL-prospect Sonny looks into an awful lot; and Frank Langella, as you could imagine, plays the owner of the Cleveland Browns like the rich and powerful d-bag you’d expect him to play. There’s plenty more where that came from, but you may just have to wait around and see just who exactly does show their bright and smiling faces.
Consensus: May tack-on a bit more than it needs to, but when it comes to the actual process of drafting possible, football-prospects, Draft Day is entertaining, funny and heartwarming, which is thanks to both a charming script and cast, most notably Kevin Costner carrying the whole ship on his back.
7 / 10 = Rental!!