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“Draft Day”
Directed by Ivan Reitman

Starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Chadwick Boseman, Frank Langella, Sean Combs
Sports, Drama
120 Mins
PG-13

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Every year, one sports movie comes out of nowhere to become a classic. Last year, that honor belonged to Ron Howard’s Rush. This year, that honor might belong to Draft Day.

 

Rarely do I find myself enjoying Chris Berman’s blowhard baritone. Yet, something about hearing his voice as shots of the NFL Draft at Radio City in New York fly by made my heart beat. Draft Day, a propaganda film of the most subtle kind, calls upon an inner craving for America’s greatest sport in a time of absence: football.

Kevin Costner is back to star in another sports movie, this time as Sonny Weaver Jr., the Cleveland Browns’ general manager and chief decision-maker. Cleveland hasn’t been good at football, well, seemingly ever. With a top-10 draft pick and a chance to change the franchise forever, pressure mounts for Costner and his girlfriend Jennifer Garner, the team’s Salary Cap Manager who’s pregnant with his baby and salary cap knowledge.

Shit’s hitting the fan for Costner, who must decide between three players: the ‘local legacy,’ the ‘star QB’ and the ‘hardworking heart kid.’ Things start off pretty rough: he trades away three 1st round draft picks to get the 1st overall pick. Players rage over the decision, coaches applaud, Twitter explodes and the team’s owner (Frank Langella) tells Costner his job’s on the line.

Of course, there are other problems going on here too. Costner’s not ready to be a dad as his father just passed away, his secretary’s on vacation, and he just can’t figure out what to do with that top button on his dress shirt. To non-football fans, there’s enough fluff (a ticking clock, beautiful people and a decent romance) to make it worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong though: this movie is 100% football.

Aerials of football stadiums across the nation (notably CenturyLink Field in Seattle) fly you right into the action—there’s no better way to set the stage than a team’s home stadium and screaming fans. Coaches and General Managers cuss each other out over salary cap numbers, draft picks, and young football players with two first names.

Whether it’s incredibly real football highlights of young players concussing each other at game-speed or real-life talking heads going at it (the aforementioned Chris Berman, Mel Kiper, Jon Gruden and Deion Sanders to name a few), everything looks, smells, feels, tastes and sounds real. Filmed at the actual 2013 NFL Draft and on location at the Browns’ headquarters, NFL’s got its ‘authentic’ stamp all over it. Even NFL star running back Arian Foster shows up to act. Draft Day gets adrenaline flowing like Opening Day.

Only, watching Draft Day is like working your ass off all preseason only to tear your ACL stretching before the first game of the year—well, except for the excruciating pain part. There’s so much football that you’re left with a massive pair of blue balls once you realize that there’s no actual football in it. It’s more offseason than regular season: it’s a two-hour foreplay session with Kate Upton. Hey, at the end of the day you’re still hooking up with Kate Upton.

Draft Day wants you to lust after it—the fame, the flair, the football. Stadiums and team buildings are gorgeous, the actors are all handsome, New York’s lights shine off of players’ bleach-white teeth. It’s The Blind Side from the hind side, Jerry Maguire if Tom Cruise could sext.

Seriously, everyone’s in this movie. Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson in last year’s decent 42), Frank Langella, Denis Leary and P.Diddy/Sean Combs/Diddy Combs even pulls a Jay-Z to act as the potential number one draft pick’s slimy agent.

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Costner looks like Brett Favre and plays like Andrew Luck. He wields a football like a NYPD Chief brandishes a .45 caliber pistol. His grizzled look that didn’t work in 3 Days To Kill works well in the confines of a football compound, his cool demeanor amplifying as time begins to run out while rumors and numbers fly all around him. Costner’s calm in the huddle, a flawed but passionate quarterback leading his team through the tunnel. He makes random decisions on the fly, tosses draft picks around like hot cakes and lays his balls on the table at every moment. He’s so jittery and reckless you figure he might be high on painkillers: he’s Whim Irsay.

On the other side of the spectrum acting spectrum we find Garner, who seems completely out of place and out-matched by her peers. Garner’s repeated attempts at realistic football-speak end up sounding more like she’s reading factoids off the back of a Wheaties box. She brings the movie down.

Chadwick Boseman’s role is notable here. As Ohio State Linebacker Vontae Mack (the aforementioned ‘hardworking heart kid’), he’s thrilling. His manner is completely changed from 42, he’s much more light-hearted and clever. His relationship with Costner is almost father-son, calling on him for help when he needs it and throwing a tantrum when he doesn’t get what he wants. Boseman might be the best in this movie.

As the clock hits zero, Draft Day will likely go down as the year’s best sports movie. Though non-football fans might find it a hard pill to swallow, the elements of a great story are there in spades. For football fans, this film will be like watching the Food Channel on a diet. Draft Day always plays more like fantasy football than real football. It might be more addicting.

Another Sunday’s come and gone without pigskin. How many weeks till football?

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