Synopsis: On the day of the NFL Draft, Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) is faced with some tough choices. His team is not doing well, sports radio talking heads are beating him up for ruining the franchise his late father — the legendary coach Sonny Weaver Sr. — built up and his girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) is angry with him. His future and possibly the future of the team hinges on one deal: a massive trade for hotshot quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence).
• Richard: 3/5
• Mark: 4/5
Richard: Mark, the message behind Draft Day is that technical ability is one thing, but having heart is more important. It’s a key message for the story but vital when considering the movie as a whole. This film is technically proficient, but loads of technically proficient flicks aren’t as entertaining as this one. This movie works particularly well because it has heart, just like the players that Kevin Costner’s character tries to recruit for his football team.
Mark: Which makes the movie the opposite of Moneyball, which celebrates rationality and scientific method. I much preferred Costner’s flawed, slightly desperate soul over Brad Pitt’s technocrat. But there were other reasons I liked the movie. Having it take place on one day gives the film an urgency that really pulls you in. And there were some nice directorial flourishes, too. I haven’t seen split screen used so well in a long time. And let’s not forget a strong supporting cast.
RC: Like Moneyball, Draft Day scores authenticity points by casting a number of sports figures and insiders playing themselves, but you’re right, the supporting cast of professional actors really scores a touchdown. I enjoyed seeing Frank Langella playing the anything-for-a-buck owner of the Browns and Ellen Burstyn and Dennis Leary as Sonny’s mother and grumpy coach respectively, are both great. Sean Combs didn’t even bother me. Of course, this really is Kevin Costner’s movie. He’s easy to watch at the best of times but particularly so when he’s in the genre that works best for him, and that’s sports movies.
MB: And it’s hard to watch Costner in this without thinking about his iconic sports roles in Field of Dreams or Bull Durham. In fact, this is often where players wind up — as coaches and managers. So there’s a through line to the character to appreciate. The only thing that bothered me was that I am not a football fan. I’ve never seen a game. So all the negotiations were like watching a game of chess without any idea how the pieces are moved. Could you follow the technical details of the trades? Or were you wishing for subtitles?
RC: Subtitles might have helped a bit, but for me it didn’t matter if I followed the intricacies of the draft day business because I think the underlying emotion that comes along with changing someone’s life by drafting them into the NFL — I found those scenes powerful.
MB: Director Ivan Reitman has had a tendency to lapse into sentiment and bathos, but he keeps these tendencies nicely in check. I loved Costner, but I was also impressed at the sure handed direction. Reitman’s working at the top of his game.