Video Verdict: Review of ‘Draft Day’

Jennifer Garner, left, and Kevin Costner star in “Draft Day,” a drama about behind-the-scenes dealings during an NFL draft.  Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

Jennifer Garner, left, and Kevin Costner star in “Draft Day,” a drama about behind-the-scenes dealings during an NFL draft.

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

It’s a slow week for home video, and the only major theatrical release moving to the big screen is a sports drama starring Kevin Costner.

Draft Day

2½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and sexual references
Lionsgate
Available on: Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and on demand

Kevin Costner may have started his career as a pretty-boy star, but he has become an increasingly accomplished actor with age. Put him in a sports film, and one can’t help but reflect on just how far he has come. After all, Costner hit his stride in the late 1980s with the baseball films “Bull Durham” and “Field of Dreams.”

“Draft Day” brings Costner back to the sports genre, but he has a new role. Instead of wearing cleats and a baseball glove, he’s sporting a suit, tie and an attitude. His character, Sonny Weaver Jr., is general manager of a fictionalized version of the Cleveland Browns NFL franchise. Sonny, the son of one of the Browns’ most beloved coaches, is under pressure from team owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella) to “make a splash” in the 2014 draft. Sensing an opportunity to do just that, he makes a trade with the Seattle Seahawks and lands the No. 1 pick.

Sports analysts are convinced that Sonny will use the freshly acquired pick to score University of Wisconsin quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), the player most of them view as the best value in the draft. Fan expectations are also high, but Sonny knows the team hasn’t adequately vetted Callahan, and the Browns already have a veteran quarterback on the roster.

Determined to make the right choice, Sonny spends the hours leading up to the draft investigating players, debating with staff – including the team’s outspoken coach (Denis Leary) – and considering another possible trade. As he works, he also comes to terms with a surprise development in a romantic relationship with a much younger colleague (Jennifer Garner).

The cast for “Draft Day” is terrific, and director Ivan Reitman (“Stripes,” “Ghostbusters”) uses flashy editing to emphasize the intensity of behind-the-scenes football maneuvers. He also makes sure each conversation in the film drives the plot forward, bringing Sonny closer and closer to a decision that could impact the rest of his career.

Despite hokey moments (there are bits that feel like advertisements for the NFL), “Draft Day” is exciting through two-thirds of its run. Then, screenwriters Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph deliver a twist that defies all logic.

If a movie about the football business is to be convincing, the filmmakers have to stay true to the inner workings of the industry, and nothing in the final minutes of “Draft Day” would happen in a fantasy football draft, let alone the NFL. Reitman and his players have so much fun getting to those final minutes that it’s difficult to discount their work. But it’s also difficult to ignore plot points that are best described as nonsensical.

The fact that “Draft Day” is so entertaining before it derails leaves viewers with a conundrum. They can either enjoy it for the guilty pleasure it becomes or simply shake their heads in disgust. Either way, the film is an exercise in frustration because it should have been better.

Blu-ray and DVD extras include deleted scenes and an audio commentary by Joseph and Rothman.

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“The Originals” – The Complete First Season: First 22 episodes of the fantasy series spun off from “The Vampire Diaries.” The program centers on Niklaus (Joseph Morgan), Elijah (Daniel Gillies) and Rebekah Mikaelson (Clair Holt), the first vampires to walk the Earth. In season one, they return to New Orleans, a city they once ruled, and attempt to regain control.

“Chicago P.D.” – Season One: The second season of this “Chicago Fire” spinoff will debut at the end of September, giving viewers plenty of time to digest the 15 episodes on this home video release. The show – starring Jason Beghe, Jon Seda, Sophia Bush and Jesse Lee Soffer – focuses on the adventures of a fictional police patrol and intelligence unit.

“Chicago Fire” – Season Two: Before “Chicago P.D.” there was “Chicago Fire,” a show centered on the personal and working lives of firefighters and paramedics stationed in the Windy City. Jesse Spencer, Taylor Kinney, Monica Raymund and Lauren German star.

“They Came Together”: Co-writer and director David Wain (“Role Models”) presents a romantic comedy spoof centered on unlikely lovers (Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler). Cobie Smulders, Christopher Meloni, Max Greenfield, Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper also star.

“Night Moves”: Three radical environmentalists (Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard) work to blow up a hydroelectric dam and struggle with the fallout. Co-written and directed by Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy”).

“Heavenly Sword”: Animated film based on the like-titled, 2007 video game. The movie, like the game, follows the exploits of a warrior woman determined to deliver a magical sword to its rightful owner. To do that, she must battle enemies who want to acquire the sword for their own purposes.

“Person of Interest” – The Complete Third Season: This intelligence drama is a continuing hit for CBS. Jim Caviezel stars as a former CIA agent working with a wealthy tech genius (Michael Emerson) in an effort to prevent crimes before they happen.

“Bonanza” – The Official Seventh Season – Volumes One and Two: Fans of this classic western can buy all 33 episodes of the seventh season in two parts or as part of an all-inclusive value pack. The show follows the exploits of the Cartwrights, a Nevada family running a ranch near Lake Tahoe. Lorne Green, Dan Blocker and Michael Landon star.

“Tom and Jerry – The Lost Dragon”: New, 57-minute animated movie featuring the popular cat-and-mouse duo. When Tom and Jerry wander upon a newly hatched dragon, they must figure out how to reunite the baby with its mother.

“Grey’s Anatomy” – Complete Tenth Season: ABC’s long-running medical drama returns for an 11th season Sept. 25. In the meantime, fans can relive the 24 episodes presented on this multi-disc set. Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson and Sandra Oh star.

 

– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at forrest@forresthartman.com.

 

NOTE: Blu-rays, DVDs and screening links used to review films are provided at no charge. This enables us to run reviews the day titles become public, but it does not influence the opinions expressed in the copy.
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