Ah, Draft Day. One of the most exciting times of the year for football fans, filled with expectations and hopes for a new year of athletic excellence. This is a subject sure to arouse a lot of interest in football fans, and the allure of the draft, with all of its drama, is sure to draw interest. This is Draft Day’s goal. While far from an awful film, It plays out as too satisfied with itself and the popularity of its subject, and fails to engage on its own terms.
Draft Day takes place in the twelve hours before the 2014 NFL draft, in an alternate universe where the Seattle Seahawks have the first pick. Looking to secure a future of favorable drafts, the Seahawks approach Cleveland Browns GM Sonny Weaver, Jr. (Kevin Costner), offering a chance to nab a promising Wisconsin University quarterback in exchange for four years of first round draft picks. Though he initially accepts, hoping to give his team the boost it needs, Weaver soon realizes that this choice has potential downsides, and must navigate allegiances to coaches, other potential recruits, and his fans to accomplish a much-needed miracle draft for the long-suffering Browns.
Draft Day is a very flashy film–often distractingly so. Much of the action of the film takes place through phone conversations, and the editing tries to make this seem more exciting, with less than stellar results. We get these split-screen phone conversations where the two speakers move over the divider into each other’s rooms as they fidget and walk around, which doesn’t look nearly as cool as Draft Day thinks it does. It all seems very try-hard, trying to be snappy and exciting enough to fit the NFL, but instead just making frustrating presentation choices.
Really, the whole film feels very much like an ad–from the visual style to the entire mode of exposition. Every time the film moves to a new city, we’re immediately introduced to that city’s football team (“Seattle… Home of the Seahawks,” “Cleveland… Home of the Browns”) before being bombarded by as many team logos as can fit in the frame. And of course, no chance is missed to showcase some classic footage of Joe Montana or Peyton Manning, even when its relevance is passing at best. The film’s main aim here is to remind everyone of how great the NFL is, to revel in its own glory, which is strange–does the NFL really need to be promoted like this? Surely they’re doing fine without it.
Draft Day cannot help but remind me of another recent sports-movie-that-isn’t-about-sports, Moneyball. Moneyball also focused on a traditionally unsuccessful professional team finding glory through creative management, and played with the sports movie formula by being more concerned with the behind-the-scenes plays. But Draft Day is, unfortunately, not half the movie Moneyball is, for a number of reasons. The previously mentioned presentation issues are certainly a big problem, but another issue is simply that in Draft Day the stakes aren’t really all that high. A good draft is nice and all, sure, but anyone who pays attention knows that you can have the draft of the century and still fail in the end–Moneyball at least brought us through the season, gave us the whole story. Draft Day just doesn’t feel as weighty by comparison.
In the end, Draft Day manages to be fairly enjoyable. The climactic scenes are pretty exciting, and Kevin Costner is charming, but ultimately the film isn’t really worth mentioning. If you really need your football fix, this might keep you satisfied until the actual draft, but beyond that it’s a pretty inconsequential film. Perhaps if the characters were developed beyond their most basic motivations or the editing style wasn’t so desperately showy, this could have been something more, but as it stands Draft Day is little more than a 2-hour NFL promo.