[11th April 2014]
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Written by Scott Rothman & Rajiv Joseph
Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella, Chadwick Boseman, Dennis Leary & Tom Welling
2014 is a rather strange year for Kevin Costner, after playing Superman’s Dad last year, the actor veteran has taken on a supporting role in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, his own terrible “old guy does action” film 3 Days To Kill and TWO sports movies. It’s hardly the film choices made by an actor in his prime, but surely his first sport movie of the year, Draft Day has something to offer audiences?
Sports movies are about as formulaic as films can possibly be. Often based on true stories, they’re almost always triumphant stories of people pulling together and winning, even with all the odds stacked against them. Usually, a recognizable actor on a downward spiral will portray the coach/manager/relevant figurehead and guide the team through it all – despite family trouble at home. So far, so predictable. To be fair, nobody is going to make a film of a depressing sports true story – like that time your favourite team lost the championship, or failed a drug test. Who wants to watch that? It would be pointless.
Draft Day, however, has the potential to be a breath of fresh air for the genre, as the incendiary script by relative newcomers Scott Rothman & Rajiv Joseph has resided on the Black List for a couple of years. This writer has read the original script and for a story that steers almost entirely clear of the actual sport it’s about, it manages to create a fiercely intelligent and intense script around the eponymous Draft Day – one of the biggest (and most high pressure) football events of the year.
As such, a film directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella et al should mean that the original script is in good hands and we’d have a pulse pounding sports movie. Unfortunately, something drastically wrong seems to have happened during production, as the final result is less like the lofty cerebralism of Bennett Miller’s Moneyball, and more like the flaccid flight of fancy that your average sports movie often is.
Gone is the edge, the intrigue, the excitement, instead we’re left with Costner’s dour expression as he fumbles his way through an awkward office romance, a new and mostly useless intern, an angry coach, disgruntled players, an overbearing owner, and the numerous other people that decide they need to air their grievances to the struggling man on the biggest day of his career.
In fairness, Costner does well with that he’s given and acts as a strong anchor to ground all of the back and forth between various parties. The biggest problem with Draft Day is after the first five minutes of the film, you know EXACTLY how it’s going to end. You know who Costner will pick. The opening is so clumsy in fact that it derails the entire potential of the film. All of the other relationship subplots feel tacked on and out of place – merely existing to pad out the runtime until the inevitable conclusion that the audience worked out over an hour ago is revealed to them. As such, the “journey” that the film intends to embark on never gains any traction, leaving viewers twiddling their thumbs as they impatiently wait for the overwrought conclusion.
While the way in which Costner achieves his goals is inventive and interesting, it comes far too late in the game to make up for an hour of the audience sitting on their hands.
It’s worth mentioning that Reitman’s visual palette is surprisingly rich for such a contained premise, and his use of stylistic cross cutting visuals to showcase both sides of any given phone conversation gives it an almost comic book-esque form. It almost tricks you into thinking the film is more interesting than it actually is.
Sadly, while Draft Day has some strengths on its own merit, when compared to Joseph & Rothman’s original script you can see that something was lost in translation, and it has been sterilized by the studio. The final result is a disappointing and forgettable affair that normally wouldn’t bother this writer in the slightest. However, Draft Day represents something a lot worse – a squandered opportunity to make something truly original, a breath of fresh air to a dying genre – and that’s why it fails abysmally. If you have a choice between movies at the weekend – leave Draft Day on the bench.
Draft Day is out now in the US & Canada, but is yet to receive a European release date. Check out the trailer below.