By Anthony J. Machcinski
Even though the real NFL draft was pushed back several weeks from its normal mid-April date, football die-hards trying to get a little fix of football are afforded the opportunity to see the new film “Draft Day.”
The film, which released earlier this month, starts Kevin Costner as Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. After a 6-10 season the previous year, Weaver is charged with turning Cleveland’s seventh overall pick into a player that can turn the struggling Browns franchise around.
“Draft Day” also features Jennifer Garner as Weaver’s newly pregnant girlfriend, and Chadwick Boseman, who plays top linebacker Vontae Mack.
Throughout the film, Costner faces extreme pressure to turn the franchise around from powerful owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella), hard-nosed Coach Penn (Denis Leary) and a Cleveland Browns fan base starved for a Super Bowl win.
As GM, Costner is forced to wheel and deal with his seventh overall pick, and has to make tough decisions when attractive offers come his way.
While the film features a laundry list of star power, the sports world is well represented as well. Draft cornerstones such as ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., Chris Berman and Jon Gruden along with NFL Network stars Rich Eisen, Mike Mayock and Deion Sanders all play themselves, while Houston Texans running back Arian Foster plays draft hopeful Ray Jennings.
While “Draft Day” could give some football fans the scratch needed to itch their football addiction, the movie falls short of being a great movie due to its inability to identify a target audience.
Diehard football fans, like myself, are required to eliminate the memory of last season – a hard task considering the team with the number 1 pick in the film, the Seattle Seahawks, just won the Super Bowl in real life.
Those strictly seeking a drama film out of “Draft Day” will be a bit confused as to the intricacies of analyzing a potential player: for example, why it matters to an NFL team that none of a player’s college teammates attended his birthday party.
For an NFL fan seeking the true behind-the- scenes look at an NFL front office, “Draft Day” certainly isn’t it. In the real NFL, a team wouldn’t wait until the day of the draft to begin orchestrating some of the trades Costner creates in the film.
Those seeking that behind-the-scenes look at draft operations should be guided to Nicholas Dawidoff’s book “Collision Low Crossers.” In the book, Dawidoff, a contributor to the New York Times and New Yorker, lives with the 2011 New York Jets – from the 2011 NFL Draft through the end of the 2011 season.
While reading the 500-page book isn’t exactly the most time-efficient way to learn about the inner workings of an NFL front office, it’s a better telling than the 100-minute film “Draft Day.”
The film, however, is not an entire bust. The film’s attention to small details is simply stunning.
When Costner talks to college coaches on the phone, the coaches are seen decked out in their team’s apparel. When the draft experts break down film on Vontae Mack, they watch tape of Mack at Ohio State playing against Wisconsin.
It’s that attention to detail that helps the film get over its shortcomings, including names a child could think of. (Really? Bo Callahan and Brian Drew are the
best names you could think of for a quarterback?)
While the film is not up to the level as other great football movies as “Friday Night Lights,” “Rudy,” and “Any Given Sunday,” it certainly warrants a better reception
than its output at the box office opening weekend.
In that weekend, “Draft Day” took in $9.75 million at the box office, leading Entertainment Weekly to call the film’s opening weekend “a fumble.”
Personally, while I had to suspend some of my own knowledge of the NFL, “Draft Day” exceeded moderate expectations and is easily worth a rating of 6.5 or 7 out of 10.