There have been plenty of movies made about football but none made about draft day -- a seemingly mythical occurrence when the major football franchises make bids for the hottest college players. Well, thankfully "Ghostbusters" director Ivan Reitman and former Robin Hood Kevin Costner are about to right that wrong with "Draft Day," a drama set in the high stakes world of the NFL draft.
"Draft Day" takes place over a single 24-hour period, where a frazzled general manager (played by Costner) is running around, trying to restore glory to his team (the Cleveland Browns) and sort out his personal life (his girlfriend has just told him that she's pregnant and his dad recently died). If anyone was wondering about the analytical nitty gritty that went into the behind-the-scenes lead-up to the NFL draft, then this is the movie for you.
But what about those (like myself) who only have a passing understanding of the game (and know virtually nothing about draft day)? Is there still enough entertainment value for the movie to score a touchdown? Or does it fumble?
1. There Are A Lot Of Graphics
There should be no question as to whether or not "Draft Day" has been officially sponsored (or at the least endorsed by) the NFL. Almost immediately we're inundated with graphics for the official teams. Seattle isn't just identified by its name. It's actually "Seattle... Home of the Seahawks," with the official Seahawks logo blazing across the screen. Additionally, tons of NFL personalities appear... I think... I probably know less about the NFL than I do about nuclear physics. But there was something authentic about those guys.
2. Costner Rules
This is the third major movie Kevin Costner has starred in this year (after "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" and "3 Days to Kill") and his return is still quite enjoyable. This might be his best performance of the year, too, a role that requires Costner to do the things Costner does well (scowl, yell occasionally, look handsome as hell) and avoid the things that he doesn't do so well (emote, adorn complicated accents). It's one of his most purely enjoyable performances in some time and continues the welcome return of all things Cost. Let the good times roll!
3. There Are More Split Screens Than 10 De Palma Movies
"Draft Day" is composed mostly of people walking around offices and talking on the phone. But director Ivan Reitman has found an ingenious work-around: a series of elaborate, technically adventurous split screens that allow Kevin Costner to walk through the split screen to a third screen on the opposite side of the frame. It's kind of hard to explain but is a really wonderful, unique experience that totally enlivens the film -- it's like if "Moneyball" was edited like Ang Lee's "Hulk."
4. The Supporting Cast Is Ridiculous
Another thing that makes "Draft Day" more than a dusty sports movie is its supporting cast. Frank Langella plays the owner of the team, who I have written down in my notes is a "theme park baron" (for an entire scene he speaks in elaborate water slide metaphors), Denis Leary is the Browns' coach, Rosanna Arquette is Costner's ex-wife, Jennifer Garner is his current girlfriend (she's tough as nails and smart as hell!), Sam Elliot is a college football coach, Ellen Burstyn is Costner's mom, Chi McBride is a rival manager, and Sean Combs plays a sports agent. Everyone is really, really good, and every time a new actor pops up the movie jolts back to life. It's lovely.
5. Ellen Burstyn's Hair Is Distracting
Ellen Burstyn's hair is odd -- it's a kind of a whipped-up soufflé of a hair style, with her natural white in the front and a very unnatural shade of red in the back. Honestly, I've never seen anything like it before. But then again I've never been to Baltimore.
6. There's a 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark' Joke
Frank Langella makes a "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" joke, and it's glorious. Too bad the play closed before the movie came out. Who'd have thought?
7. You Don't Have to Be a Fan of the Game to Enjoy
One of the more important aspects of "Draft Day" is how it manages to be entertaining even if you have very little investment in the NFL, football, or whatever draft day is (everyone talks about it like it has this kind of mythic importance). Reitman directs the movie with a kind of zippy energy, and the script makes very clear who the various characters are and what relationship they have to the game. It's pretty uncanny, actually, and one of the movie's chief strengths. This really could have been about anything that involves number crunching and high pressure, but the fact that it is about the NFL and football certainly makes things more fun, whether you're a fan or not.
8. It's Pretty Tense
There's a countdown clock that occasionally appears in the frame, marking the time until the draft and adding a kind of "24"-like sense of tension to the movie. And the fact that a set piece can be made out of a bunch of white guys watching old football footage on a computer screen is a testament to how white-knuckle things can get. And this is without any football being in the game.
9. At Two Hours, It's Probably 15 Minutes Too Long
Why are sports movies always so long? Well, whatever the reason, "Draft Day" follows suit. It's a solid two hours long. Which is way, way too long. Then again, who would have wanted to miss a single instance where Costner hurriedly brings Garner into a room to tell her something secret and emotional? There are only six in the movie!
10. How This Was Going to Be R-Rated Is Beyond Me
At one point "Draft Day" was rated "R." How or why this was the case is beyond me. Although, at one point, Costner calls another character a "pancake-eating motherf---er."
"Draft Day" is in theaters now.