Kevin Costner returns to the sports-flick field in Draft Day, but instead of being involved in baseball, as he was in Bull Durham, Field of Dreams and For Love of the Game, or golf, as he was in Tin Cup, he’s involved in pro football. He doesn’t play it, of course, being nearly 60. Instead, he moves up to the executive ranks, and still manages to make this particular sports flick entertaining.
Costner plays the fictional General Manager of a fictionalized version of the Cleveland Browns. He fired his father, who coached the team and who recently died, a decision that haunts him as he works to put together a winning team, enduring pressure from owner Frank Langella and riled up new coach Denis Leary and hiding his relationship with co-worker Jennifer Garner all the while.
It would be easy to compare the film to Moneyball, the recent baseball drama starring Brad Pitt. Both projects center on men trying to mold professional sports teams using methods somewhat alien to non-sports people. I myself am not a big sports person, and was unfamiliar with exactly how the NFL draft works before I saw this movie. I still am, despite the film’s best efforts.
But Pitt’s flick, while very good, trends toward the dry side. Draft is a more engaging affair, thanks in large part to Costner. Never the most energetic of movie stars, he nonetheless remains relatable. Despite the fact his character here is well-off and has a good-looking girlfriend nearly twenty years his junior, you want to him to succeed, to be able to build a team on his own terms.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Ivan Reitman, the man known for making comedy hits like Ghostbusters and Stripes, directed the film. It’s a drama, to be sure—though it does contain plenty of lighter moments—but Reitman gives it a nicely slick and polished look, and moves it along with solid energy, particularly in how he uses split screens to make phone-call scenes more interesting.
In backing up Costner, Garner is great, showing us a smart and sensible woman succeeding in what is generally considered a man’s world, and I like how she and Costner handle their relationship. Leary is even better, boosting the film with his rat-a-tat delivery of dialogue and creating a man you start off hating—who constantly flaunts his Superbowl ring—and end up respecting. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 9/2/14