The NFL Draft is just around the corner but before the real draft gets underway in May, a cinematic retelling of one of the more exciting days on the NFL calendar is set to hit theaters. Draft Day is exactly what it sounds like, a story about an NFL general manager trying to not only sort out the future of his team but also the future of his personal life as he prepares to make the biggest decision of his career.
On the surface, the film seems like it could veer into disastrously cliche territory — and you’d better believe it does at times — but this isn’t a film that should be judged as anything more than pure escapism entertainment.
The story follows Kevin Costner’s character, fictional Cleveland Browns GM Sonny Weaver Jr, as he tried to figure out what to do with the newly acquired first pick in the draft — a pick he’s traded away his future to the Seattle Seahawks to acquire. But from here, the story actually becomes interesting as the back room dealings of an NFL draft day war room are brilliantly captured with rapid fire pace.
Full disclosure, I went into the film with a complete bias of thinking it was going to be terrible. It’s almost impossible to make a movie like this, with the approval of the NFL, and not make what amounts to an über-commercial for the league.
Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised.
Sure, there are a handful of cliches but there’s actual substance to the film and that’s the first big surprise. While it was looking to be just a two hour commercial for the NFL, Draft Day digs into the lifestyle of a general manager and an NFL front office in as realistic a way possible.
Plus, having the NFL logos, the authentic NFL Draft setting and real life figures from the event actually help make it all feel real, even if it comes at the price of an edgier script.
Not every football movie has to be Any Given Sunday though, where we are damming the sport to hell for being the most violent thing legally allowed to be bought and paid for. Don’t get me wrong, cinephiles will hate a lot of the things in this movie as there are random cameos by everyone from Sean Combs to Houston Texans running back Arian Foster — who was stretched to his acting limits by playing a running back — and there is a lot of scene chewing done by Costner.
But when Coster and sports get together on screen, we pay for him to chew on the scenery and we get what we paid for with Draft Day. Not everyone will love the film, but it’s pretty much Moneyball-lite and given how hard it is to make a decent sports movie these days with league approval, things could have gone a lot worse than this.
It’s not an instant classic and it’s not Costner’s best movie, but it’s also not his worst. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a massive commercial for the NFL that never once paints the league in a bad light, but an actual story develops between the lines and those going into it with an open mind will be pleasantly surprised with what they see.