The second “oh heck not him” concern came with Denis Leary. Leary is basically a voice-over artist, TV series and commercial actor with some movie credits to his name. As Coach Penn Leary was something short of credible. His facial expressions and acting seemed more like a guy who makes Ford Super Duty truck commercials than an NFL head coach.
Last, but not least, was the presence, however minor, of Wade Williams as one of the football scouts. Having suffered through numerous episodes of “Prison Break” (2005-2007) watching Williams play the heavy-handed and poltroonish Brad Bellek, I was not surprised to see him reprise that type of role in “Draft Day.”
Take heart – three strikes only puts you out in baseball – not football. Rest assured “Draft Day” is a football movie from the first frame to the last. I must add that it is a pretty good football movie. As there are legions of football fans out there waiting to see if Peyton Manning can make it back to the Super Bowl in 2015 and avenge the Broncos “less is less” performance, “Draft Day” should be a big hit. While I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable football fan, this film revealed to me the innards of the wheeling and dealing that apparently plays out up to and beyond the start of draft day shenanigans. I’d love to know how director Ivan Reitman either staged of piggy-backed on to the draft day scene at Radio City Music Hall. These scenes were interesting, remarkable and well-staged/shot. These insider glimpses brought home the complexity, pageantry and billion dollar significance of this annual seminal pro football event.
While only a few actors’ names have been cited so far, the cameo cast of “Draft Day” is a “who’s who” in the world of the NFL. Even league Commissioner Roger Goodell appears on several occasions. The huge cameo cast includes current and former stars, coaches and broadcasters. These personalities are skillfully integrated into the storyline of the film and don’t feel like the poorly grafted cameo players seen in so many other films.
The story line needs a bit of description. Sonny Weaver, Jr (Costner) is the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns and the son of the late legendary coach of the team. The Browns have fallen on hard times and the fans and owner are expecting some miracle draft picks from GM Weaver. Owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella) takes no prisoners when it comes to his dispirited Browns and Sonny knows that this draft is either do or die. Sonny’s paramour Ali (Jennifer Garner) is the teams inside attorney and knows more about the Browns in particular, and the NFL in general, than anyone else in the organization. As the film opens it is about 12 hours until the draft begins in New York, Sonny is unsure who to take and the Seattle Seahawks are offering him their first draft choice which guarantees access to the hottest pro prospect on the block quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence.) To get Callahan, however, Weaver must trade away three future first-round draft choices – a very high price. He does and all hell breaks loose. The remainder of this interesting film is consumed with how Sonny Weaver, Jr. deals with his draft dilemma, his loving pregnant girlfriend, owner Molina, a passel of other GMs and the angry fans of Cleveland.
Trust me – if you like pro football, this film will resonate with you. Additionally, the cinematography is outstanding - especially the fly-over shots of a number of NFL stadia. You also get an inside look at a number of NFL training facilities, offices and executives. Reitman skillfully integrates terrific NFL Films footage of game day action as needed.
See “Draft Day” on a theater screen. The photography is too big for a TV set.