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Draft Day

April 11, 2014

As a Red Blooded American Male, I love football. That doesn’t mean I worship it or am a diehard fan or anything. To give you an idea of my relationship with the sport, when someone asked me what my favorite team was I replied, “The Giants… I guess?” with a noncommittal shrug because I don’t care but I enjoy watching it. I appreciate the athleticism, teamwork, and so on. It has major problems (so so many problems) but there is something inherently interesting about the sport to me.

The NFL Draft, the day when young players get picked up by professional teams is an awesome event, and I say awesome in the impressive sense. It’s this massive thing that combines pageantry, high stakes, backroom deals, and annually decides the fates of young men, coaches, and whole teams (and thus their fans). Millions of dollars are thrown around and people across the country dedicate hours both professionally and not to coming up with draft day strategies. If you’re in any way connected to the NFL it can feel like you live or die by the Draft.

So how the hell did we screw up this movie?

If I’m being frank, I haven’t seen a botched concept involving Kevin Costner this bad since Waterworld. Draft Day follows Sonny Weaver Jr, the general manager of the heart breakingly terrible Cleveland Browns as he finds himself once again staring down the draft. He finds himself struggling to find his own place in the shadow of his father, a Cleveland Browns coaching institution, while negotiating his desires with those of a new head coach (Denis Leary) and the team owner (Frank Langella). He finds himself with the number one draft pick, by trading away years worth of first round picks, and everyone expects him to take quarterback and Heisman Trophy Winner Bo Callahan (Josh Pence) even though he has other good choices available in runningback/Cleveland Legacy Ray Jennings (Arian Foster), and linebacker Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman).

The movie putters along through an awkward and miserable two acts struggling to find a decent story to tell us. We see Sonny Weaver try to deal with his job while also dealing with interpersonal problems with his girlfriend/co-worker Ali (Jennifer Garner), and the recent passing of his legendary father. The obvious choice of Bo Callahan is further complicated by Sonny’s desire to see what the current quarterback, Brian Drew (Tom Welling), can do now that he has made a miraculous recovery from an injury. None of these issues is ever fully realized though. The movie relies heavily on the minutia of drafting rather than the characters and stories that it’s juggling.

When we finally do get to the draft, and the movie digs deep into time sensitive trade deals and forces us to question and worry about the futures of the young men we’ve barely seen all movie, it actually gets good. That’s the largest problem I have with the flick. The third act blows the rest of the movie out of the water. We suddenly feel tension, and the trades become important because everything is on the line. Then it gets resolved exactly how we expect and we realize that all of this tension is just a smoke screen. The movie ends and everything’s wrapped up in a nice little bow.

It’s not terrible but it’s too clean and neat.

The leads are utterly terrible. I can’t remember the last time I hated seeing Kevin Costner on a screen this much, and the same goes for Jennifer Garner. They have no chemistry on screen, which hurts their romance subplot immensely, and she doesn’t click with anyone else on the cast either. Denis Leary plays his typical Irish Cockface of a character because much like Adam Sandler even though he has proven he can act he just chooses not to. Meanwhile, the supporting cast is actually very strong and interesting.

The Seattle Management played by Chi McBride and Patrick St. Espirit actually have chemistry and play well off of each other. The intern Rick, played by Griffin Newman is generally the only source of comedy in this supposed dramedy and I can’t wait to see more of him. Chadwick Boseman, who plays Vontae Mack actually sold me on his character from the moment he first appeared and I eagerly awaited each one of his appearances because it was a relief from watching the leads collect their paychecks. As a final note, I was extremely intrigued by the other two players that get screen time; Bo Callahan is hinted to have some kind of interesting problem, and there’s an interesting father/son dynamic between Ray Jennings and his dad (played by the underused Terry Crews).

The direction is simply strange with these weird split screens whenever there’s a phone call. On top of that, it has the kind of terrible wipe effects that you rarely see outside of a Star Wars fan film and generally flatly angled middle distance shots. Everything else is exactly what you expect; a straightforward score, textbook cuts, and nice even lighting.

This film just had a lot of problems with pacing. It takes place during the twelve hours leading up to the draft and it throws us into the middle of all of these characters. We’re not given enough time to care about Sonny and Ali or any of the players. On top of that, we don’t spend enough time with any characters besides Sonny to really invest anything into them. We don’t get the information we want or need because all of the characters already know it. If this movie had focused on the players rather than a general manager or perhaps if it had taken place over a longer time period like maybe the end of the season up to the draft? It very well might have been a much more satisfying and powerful movie. Instead it’s a jumbled mess that pulls off a momentarily thrilling third act.

You definitely don’t need to see this in theaters, and I wouldn’t even say it’s something to get excited about when it comes to streaming. Draft Day is the prime example of a movie you’ll catch on cable one afternoon and go, “Oh, that was fun,” before promptly forgetting it.

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From → Movies

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