HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Draft Day
HTS Overall Score:79
It used to be that Baseball was the number one “American” sport in our great nation, but I think that the paradigm has slid over a bit and football has really become the American sport. The NFL has taken over in a way that is unprecedented in times past with it being the number one reason why the majority of the American populace hang on to Cable TV in this day and age of Netflix and other streaming options according to the latest polls. Fans will pain their faces, tailgate for hours and generally be glued to the TV or projector when our boys strap on those pads and run out into the field. Even though I don’t follow the sport as religiously as I did in my 20’s, I still have a soft spot for football films and adore watching a drama that delves into the relationships of the players and gets you out there on the field watching them battle it out for the championship.
Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner) is general manager of the Cleveland Browns and it’s up to him to try and raise his team out of defeat and into the championship again with the acquisition of new talent. Waking up on draft day (probably the scariest day for any scouted college player in his entire career) he’s under a lot of pressure. His boss, Mr. Molina (Frank Langella), is grinding his gears in hopes of getting new blood, even if that means replacing Sonny. His girlfriend/coworker Ali (Jennifer Garner) has dropped the bombshell on him that she’s pregnant and he’s still terrified about his chances of getting new blood. Desperate to get something that will bring Cleveland out of the doldrums he makes a trade with the Seattle Seahawks General Manager (Patrick St. Esprit) and trades off his Quarterback Brian Drew (Tom Welling) along with their next THREE 1st pick draft choices for Bo Callaghan (Josh Pence), the most popular up and comer on the market.
Now that a deal has been struck, the real meat of the story comes out as Sonny starts second guessing himself after finding out a few nuggets of information about his hail Mary acquisition. Pulling up tapes, calling in old favors and relying on good old gut instinct, he starts to paint a complete picture and see just what he’s done. There’s nothing on the surface that would make Bo seem like a bad choice, but that gut feeling, those little tiny flags that seem inconsequential start adding up and making it seem like maybe there’s another option. Wheeling and dealing like a mad man Sonny takes on some huge risks as he pulls a legendary several hours pulling off what can only be described as a madman gone crazy, or a miracle maker who has some true magic to his lunacy.
“Draft Day” is a bit of a mixed bag and a surprise to me on both ends of the spectrum. Usually football movies tend to be a bit more expansive and takes in a lot larger of a mouth feel for viewers. Here we have a very intimate look at one day in the life of these men and women, one day where it’s down to the line and every decision is make it or break it. My favorite football story ever is a close tie between the epically inspiring “Rudy” and the dark and gritty drama of “Any Given Sunday” so I wasn’t sure what end of the spectrum “Draft Day” was going to fall into. Surprisingly it makes a niche all its own as it becomes a drama 95% focusing on Sonny Weaver as he makes his decisions for the NFL lineup in the draft pick. What makes this movie great, is always what pulls it’s pacing down as well, for a drama about political dealings in a one day period create an intimate portrait, but it also limits the movie in terms of its scope a bit. The first act of the story is rather slow, setting the stage for what’s going to happen later, but even I got a tad bored at times, wonder just what all this dealing with trades was going to pan out into, but it starts to become clear once the second act picks up. Sonny is having huge misgivings about his draft pick and even his own co-workers and subordinates are thinking he’s gone loco. The tension builds and builds as Sonny starts to find out more and more, pulling that line taut until the final third act blows into high gear. Now it’s all on the line as Teams are desperately making last minute trades and you get to see whether Sonny’s gut has paid off or whether he’s going to be packing his bags the next morning.
I honestly never though a movie dealing with a bit of behind the scenes draft pick trading would really be interesting, but Ivan Reitman did a very solid job of translating that tension that players and sports fans alike feel on the day itself into film form as the final act is a great culmination to a solid movie. While good storytelling is a major part of the success, a good drama relies largely on the way the actors translate that writing from script to screen and with such a large cast of successful actors it’s no wonder why. Kevin Costner is …well…. Kevin Costner, doing his dark and brooding character with a soft spot perfectly. He’s not the best actor in the world anymore, but he was cast well in this situation, pulling off a distant GM who’s got to make that desperate play work. Dennis Leary is gritty, he’s mean and he’s abrasive, but that’s just how NFL coaches are so watching him play the foil to Kevin is immensely satisfying. The assortment of young actors portraying the NFL players are all quite well done, although Tom Welling made me rub my eyes and say “Hey, is that superman!!!???”, because that boy sure has grown up from his cherub cheeked days on the CW for sure. The only character that I think is a bit wasted is Jennifer Garner (who looks a bit odd with some recent plastic surgery in the face), who has potential but her lack of screen time tends to make you wish such a great actress was given more room to breathe.
“Draft Day, is not going to make my top list of favorite sports movies, but it is a very competent drama that very pleasantly surprised me upon watching. The drama is very tight nit, with a compelling cast amidst a plot that shouldn’t BE that wildly compelling. It has its flaws, the main one being a bit of a rocky start, but it finds its footing and takes off in steady pace, creating a very solid and tense experience for those of you who love and dread that fateful day when you find out whether or not your team has a shot at the championship in the upcoming season.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=24993[/img]“Draft Day” is presented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio with an excellent AVC encoded transfer to Blu-ray. Colors are bright and vibrant, detail phenomenal and is just overall a beautiful looking picture. The Cleveland landscape is simply stunning as the movie is well saturated with lots and lots of image pop. The image is so crystal clear that many times you feel like you can reach through the screen and touch the actors. There are a few times where the shots go to digital 30fps cameras during the showing of the draft pick (most likely actual footage of the show) which are a bit blurry and soap operaish, but the rest of the movie is jaw dropping in its excellence. Contrasts are beautiful and skin tones are decidedly natural. Even the black levels shine with the few darker shots, shadow detail is fully present and no crushing or any other issues that I can see. The whole film is pretty much devoid of any compression artifacts that could ruin the viewing experience, leaving us with a movie that’s just shy of perfect and will definitely please the fans.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=25001[/img]Summit’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA track does its job very very well with only a few minor issues. Dialogue is clean and clear as a bell, allowing us to hear every word spoken from Kevin Costner shouting at his crew to Frank Langella growling his lines out. I actually have to say that the dialogue is some of the best replicated and balance center tracks that I’ve heard in quite a while. The front soundstage is very full with activity, with the bustling board room and the packed draft day press junket taking center stage. The panning effects are quite nice and there is some fantastic directionality in the channels. The only real complaints deal with the track being a dialogue heavy track. The surrounds are used for some nice ambient noise, but there’s not really a lot to play with as the film loads the front channels a bit heavier than the back channels. LFE is nice and solid, giving a very mild low end to the dramatic moments in the film, but again, those front 3 channels are where most of the weight is. A good track for sure, but don’t expect a wham bang boom action movie track.
• “On The Clock: The Making of Draft Day” featurette
• “Welcome to Primetime” featurette
• Audio Commentary with Writers Rajiv Joseph and Scott Rothman
• Deleted Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer
Football movies hold a special place in my heart, and “Draft Day” certainly was a fun watch. It’s not going to make it up there with “Any Given Sunday” or the like, as the first half of the film tends to drag, but once Sonny starts digging into the character of Bo and the general managers start trading picks in the draft the tension starts to pull in nicely. It’s got amazing video, very solid audio with a smattering of special features, so for you Football fans out there I would definitely recommend a watch for sure. Good, but not great.
Starring: Kevin Costner, Frank Langella, Jennifer Gardner
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Scott Rothman, Rajiv Joseph
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Runtime: 110 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 2nd 2014
Buy Draft Day Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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