3.5 out of 4 stars
It took nearly a quarter-century, but Kevin Costner is great again.
Costner’s movies have been generally good since his Oscar-winning performance in Dances with Wolves in 1990, but rarely great. Wyatt Earp? Good. Tin Cup? A little better. 3000 Miles to Graceland, The Guardian and Mr. Brooks? Entertaining.
Leave it to the Cleveland Browns – the NFL’s lovable losers – to make Costner a winner again in Draft Day.
But in the movie, it’s May 8, with less than 13 hours before the beleaguered Browns need to make a splash in the first round of the NFL Draft. Costner, playing Browns general Manager Sonny Weaver Jr., can’t afford to screw this up. Or else.
He trades three first-round picks with Seattle to move up from No. 7 to No. 1, setting off a flurry of events that give fans an inside look at what happens on draft day, when team’s futures often are decided.
Director Ivan Reitman seamlessly weaves Weaver’s interactions with potential trading partners – the Bills, Chiefs, Jaguars and Texans – along with his love interest – it’s a Costner movie, so there’s always a hot girl (Jennifer Garner) – his bereaving family and a demanding boss as he tries to turn losers into winners.
This as close a look at the NFL Draft as Ravens fans will get unless they are sitting next to Ozzie Newsome in the team’s “War Room,” the name given to place where executives, scouts and coaches gather to decide who’ll they’ll select.
The NFL Draft is so much more than giving Roger Goodell a name on a piece of paper, as Draft Day tackles the series of internal battles that teams face every spring.
Does Costner draft a player who first-year coach Vince Penn (Denis Leary) wants for his system or the player who has the biggest upside? Does Costner draft a promising running back with deep Cleveland roots but who has been arrested for beating someone up? Or does he pick media darling and fan favorite Bo Callahan, a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback projected to be a franchise’s savior?
It’s Costner’s job to determine if the guy everyone says is the next great thing really is just that – or simply the next Ryan Leaf. After all, he just spent three first-round picks – just as the Redskins did in real life to acquire Robert Griffin III – so he better be right.
And the clock is ticking.
In Draft Day, It’s the little things – the way Costner interacts with Browns coaches and intern, Costner’s family, rival general managers and projected first-round picks and their agents, which includes Sean “Diddy” Combs – that transform Draft Day from a sports movie into a drama. The last time Costner accomplished this feat the results were Field of Dreams and Bull Durham, which have withstood the test of time.
When it comes to the NFL Draft, all roads lead to New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. It’s the red carpet. It’s players dressed in their finest threads. It’s fans cheering for the player who will lead them to the Lombardi Trophy. It’s the Green Room, where projected top picks wait anxiously with their family and agents.
It’s all there in Draft Day, complete with a special treat for Ravens fans.
“You could see them shooting this movie at last year’s draft – they were telling us when to cheer,” said Dave Carey, a Baltimore resident who attends the NFL Draft as a fan with his friends annually and who saw Draft Day on Jan. 30. “But the cheering you hear in the movie when Commissioner Roger Goodell is announced at the start of the draft was doctored in because it wasn’t that loud as it is in the movie.”
So who does Weaver pick? The can’t-miss quarterback from Wisconsin? The running back from Florida State who the Browns’ head coach wants? Or the immature but immensely talented linebacker from Ohio State?
It’s well worth the price of admission to find out.
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.