Like Moneyball but with football, and lots of product placement.
I was able to attend an early screening of the upcoming sports drama, Draft Day. It stars Kevin Costner (Man of Steel) as the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, struggling to acquire the number one pick for the 2014 NFL Draft, overcome the competition and deal with heavy-handed relationship issues. The film also stars Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club) as his love interest, Chadwick Boseman (42) as a football player, and Frank Langella (Robot and Frank) as the Owner of the Browns.
Directed by 80's comedy legend, Ivan Reitman (No Strings Attached), Draft Day is a movie that will keep you entertained, and will be especially enjoyable for all football fans, if slightly anticlimactic. In spite of his historical career making great comedies, fans may be surprised that Draft Day is not very funny, while some of the comedic relief lands, other jokes falter. One of the biggest problems is its predictability, with the Costner's climactic decision feeling ultimately underwhelming because it can pretty much be guessed from the start of the film. Still, there's fun to be had in the unexpected maneuvers and deals that it takes to get there.
Costner does a great job as the general manager, though some of his personal problems feel contrived, we consistently want him to succeed and feel for him when all hope is lost. This movie may help revive his career as a leading man in a way that his last film, 3 Days to Kill, could not. Garner is also awesome as the female lead, playing a smart and strong "Salary Capologist" with an extensive knowledge of football. Though she is very likable, and the most level headed character in the film, I was thrown off by the large age difference they appear to have.
Reitman gives the film an impressive scope, flying the camera over many cities and stadiums as each team is brought into the story. He also keeps the many phone call scenes visually exciting by adding style to the split screen, which is constantly moving as characters cross back and forth over it. While it didn't work for everyone, I thought it was a unique, if slightly distracting, visual flair.
The most noticeable flaw, but one that seems inescapable due to the amount of sponsorship present in the NFL, was the ever present product placement in the film. From Papa Johns, to Sunoco, every time a brand appears in the film the camera seems to linger on the logo. In fact, the whole film comes off as a creative and entertaining commercial for the NFL brand itself.
Overall, Draft Day is an entertaining and relatively satisfying sports drama. Although it treats the climactic decision that many will see coming as a surprise, it is still a fun ride through the dramatic trades and negotiations that take place at the last minute in the NFL. You can catch Draft Day when it comes out on April 11, 2014.