“Draft Day” begins with Kevin Costner’s serious character, Sonny Weaver Jr., facing the current biggest dilemma in his life.
The NFL draft will commence in 12 hours.
The general manager of the Cleveland Browns is at a crossroads. After the last season, he fired his father, legendary Browns coach Sonny Weaver Sr..
Then his father died.
So he hired a coach who won the Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys. Coach Penn, played with ring-wielding swagger by Dennis Leary, wants to draft a running back.
He’s got an owner who’s itching for success on the field. Anthony Molina, played with rich-man arrogance by Syracuse University graduate Frank Langella, wants the moves made this day to make a big splash.
He’s got members of the doggedly loyal and vociferously determined Dog Pound calling sports talk radio calling for his hide.
And then there’s the personal biggie. The team’s salary cap specialist and his secret girlfriend, Ali, has just told him she’s pregnant. Played with great cool, compassion and confidence by Jennifer Garner, Ali know more about football and Sonny Jr.’s ability to make things right than the coach and the owner.
Written by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph and directed by Ivan Reitman, “Draft Day” gives Costner all the material he needs to make sure that this is another gem in his sports catalog, joining “Field of Dreams,” “Tin Cup” and “Bull Durham” as films that will have fans satisfied that their favorite sport got its just due.
Costner shines as a GM who has to rule with confidence in his actions, even though he’s as much in the dark about how each decision will play out and pay off as the coaches and fans. Alone, he wonders which way to go. In a supply closet with his cap specialist/girlfriend, he seeks counsel and answers. In front of the staff, he ask for support and belief.
The war room shots in the Browns’ offices as well as several teams that may or may not be part of Weaver’s big day decisions, are tense and quite believable.
The players about to become part of the NFL are fleshed out well in small but important roles for Chadwick Boseman, Arian Foster and Josh Pence.
Ellen Burstyn is feisty and fierce as Sonny’s mom.
Terry Crews stands out as a former Browns player who’d dearly love his son to follow that path, and Syracuse fans can cheer a cameo appearance by real life Browns legend and SU alum Jim Brown.
But the movie, and the NFL draft day it depicts so convincingly, is ruled by Kevin Costner as a GM with soul, guts and a day full of conviction that he’s got to follow his heart.
Mark Bialczak is a veteran journalist who has lived in the Syracuse area since 1983. In early 2013, he was set free to write about whatever he wants. Click here to read Mark’s BLOG.