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Draft Day (Blu-ray Review)

22 Aug, 2014 By: John Latchem

Street 9/2/14
Box Office $28.84 million
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for brief strong language and sexual references.
Stars Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Tom Welling, Sam Elliott, Ellen Burstyn, Chadwick Boseman, Terry Crews, Arian Foster, Patrick St. Esprit, Josh Pence, Sean Combs, Kevin Dunn, Chi McBride.

It’s hard to imagine a film about the multibillion-dollar business that is the National Football League would have as modest an origin as Draft Day, but that’s part of the movie’s charm.

Written by a pair of novice screenwriters, the film’s script languished in obscurity until it topped the 2012 Black List, a website that rates the most popular unproduced screenplays in Hollywood.

The team of Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman were football fans who thought an interesting movie could be made about the NFL’s annual Players Selection Meeting, otherwise known as the NFL Draft. As one of them points out in the Blu-ray’s copious behind-the-scenes materials, the draft features “interesting characters, high stakes and a ticking clock,” all the benchmarks of good drama.

The film tells the story of Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner), GM of the Cleveland Browns who has to decide what to do after obtaining the No. 1 pick in the draft. The film then sets up the different scenarios for Weaver, who is under enormous pressure from the team’s owner (Frank Langella) and head coach (Denis Leary) to make a pick that will instantly catapult the team to future success. On paper, that pick is top-rated quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), but Sonny isn’t sold he’s the best choice.

Meanwhile, Sonny must navigate the requisite personal distractions, such as a secret relationship with one of the team’s financial advisers (Jennifer Garner) and the recent death of his father, who was the team’s former head coach. The personal storylines threaten to bog down the plot before the film finds its stride and energy in the second half once the draft begins.

While the headliners are solid, the film’s supporting cast is great, particularly Chadwick Boseman (who played Jackie Robinson in 42) as another draft prospect.

The film’s gamut of potential Draft Day scenarios a team could face may veer into the realm of formula at times, but it also provides a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the operations of an NFL team.

A lot of the credit for this goes to veteran director Ivan Reitman, who manages to deliver an entertaining sports drama built primarily around scenes of men talking on the phone. Reitman infuses the film with a strong visual flair, changing the rules of traditional split-screen presentations by using editing tricks to push characters across the frame in ways that would seem to violate the viewers’ sense of space.

Granted, as much as the personal subplots attempt to inject some mainstream character-based human interest into the film, Draft Day probably won’t have much appeal to anyone who isn’t at least a casual sports fan. While getting the NFL’s cooperation was crucial for bringing an important sense of authenticity to the film (commissioner Roger Goodell even plays himself), at times it almost feels like a commercial for the league. There’s even a 10-minute Blu-ray featurette about the real NFL Draft.

The Blu-ray also includes a solid hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes (including a big section about the split-screen editing), nine minutes of deleted scenes, and an amusing commentary with Joseph and Rothman, who come across as every bit the fanboys they would claim to be.

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