Review by Tres
Draft Day Release Date April 11, 2014
That’s right, faithful readers,Draft Day!
Thanks to a good friend of mine (fellow blogger for LTBM, Gene) my lovely wife and I were able to catch a special early screening of DRAFT DAY.
Kevin Costner makes it back to the big screen, after what seems like a long drought, for what is being predicted to be a pretty big hit among sports fans. He plays Sonny Weaver Jr, the General Manager for the Cleveland Browns. (Yes, the Browns.) I loved the opening of the movie. A radio DJ is heard talking on the morning of the NFL Draft Day about how the city is full of dedicated and loyal sports fans though their franchises have not done much of anything good for decades. He then addresses Sonny and he tells him to do something for these fans who have suffered this lack-of-successful-sport-team drought.
You see Sonny start his day and we are introduced to Ali (Jennifer Garner), his girlfriend. There’s obvious tension between the two of them. We find out that on the most stressful day of his year he has been told that he is going to be a dad. He does not handle this well.
We are quickly introduced to two characters: football players seeking to be drafted. One, a legacy of the Browns, Ray Jennings (Arian Foster), who wants nothing more than to play for his dad’s team. The issue, he now has a record. He used to be in a gang, broke out from that trap, but was hanging out with his previous friends, and was jumped by adults of another gang. He beat a guy bad enough to put him in the hospital. This is the first time we get a view of Sonny’s character. He tells Ray he had to keep his head and he has to protect his hands; he needs his hands in his career. Sonny won’t give him the peace-of-mind he wants; if he’s thinking about selecting him or not for the draft. Instead, he gives him advice so he can have a future in the NFL.
The second, Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman), a linebacker that knows he’s good, tells you he’s good, and wants… “needs”… to go early. He tells Sonny that he has 2 nephews counting on him. He wants to be picked 7th (the Browns have the 7th pick) and he wants to be in Cleveland. He tells Sonny that he needs him and the Browns need him, and to take anyone else would be a mistake. Does Sonny give him peace of mind? Nope. He gives him advice. He tells Vontae to enjoy draft day because you only get drafted once.
Sonny has his plan. He knows whom he’s going to pick. He knows what order he’s doing things in. He knows his job is on the line; but his plan is solid. He has a vision of a team and he has confidence in it.
Now, plot change: Sonny’s focus has been on pick 7. Then Tom Michaels (Patrick Esprit), GM of the Seahawks, calls and offers Sonny the coveted NUMBER 1 PICK. Their cap is going to be met early and they can’t take the guy they want. However, they want a desperate person. One that will be willing to pay AND PAY BIG. What’s the final price for Sonny? Their first round draft picks for the next 2 years… Nope, wait. A 30 second hesitation changed it real quick to the next 3 years. Sonny gives in and the pressure is now on.
Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), the golden boy, All-American, and Heisman Trophy quarterback is now available. Owner, Harvey Molina (Frank Langella) says yes. An excited “Yes!” I’m going to have a jersey made out now with his name and number on it, type of “Yes!” As Sonny looks around, there’s even more yeses. The other coaches say yes.
He looks at the head coach, Vince Penn (Denis Leary), and he says… Heck No! A forceful Heck No! He has a quarterback. He has a great quarterback. He has a future franchise pending championship quarterback, Brian Drew (Tom Welling). [Having an Andrew Luck looking type style here.] Sure he went down with a knee injury after the sixth game last season, but he’s supposedly rehabilitated and in top shape.
Molina still says, Bo Callahan is going to be their first choice and pick number 1.
What is Sonny to do?
The thing is, Sonny has a gut feeling about Callahan. He tells his coaches to find something, anything, one weakness about him. He talks to security. He talks to his former coach, Coach Moore (Sam Elliott). He talks to his manager (Sean Combs). As he’s looking at Callahan, word of course gets out. MANY people find out. One such person, Vontae. What’s an overzealous, sure on himself, and edgy young man looking at his career possibly vanishing going to do about it? Tweet of course.
Sonny blindly doesn’t know about it until his mom (Ellen Burstyn), of whom he has a difficult relationship with, confronts him with, “You sold a cow for magic beans.” This is just one of the comical scenes of the film.
Frustrated, Sonny calls Vontae and tries to give him another piece of advice… stay off of social media. He warns him that every GM that sees it will now worry about how he will handle himself if they choose him. You can see that Vontae stops and thinks on this; he understands what he might have done.
When we take a look at Sonny at this point, he has a heavy burden. When you see people struggle, it becomes clearer as to why Peter compared the tested faith of a Christian to that of gold tested by fire. (1 Peter 1:6-8) No one is promised an easy life full of easy decisions; especially Christians. Sonny doesn’t have any easy decisions here.
Ali is upset with him.
He’s upset with himself about how he responded to finding out he’s going to be a dad.
His coach is mad at him.
His current quarterback is mad at him.
Vontae is mad at him.
Even his mom is upset with him.
The only people happy with him are the owner and the extra coaches.
So what is he going to do?
All he wants to do is have the team that he wants, just one time.
I won’t spoil the end of the movie for anyone.
I will say, that in this time of stress, anxiety, and struggle, we see a side of Sonny Jr that I appreciate. The macho man, the football guy, the decision maker of the team who is struggling with everything, steps back from it all to speak to Ali. He apologies for his reaction. He confides that he’s scared and that he has no idea how to be a dad. He admits he was just wrong. Then he tells Ali he just doesn’t know what to do with the Draft. She doesn’t analyze him, try to change him, make decisions for him, or even give him football advice. She simply tells him to write his own story.
Sonny makes his decisions.
He takes a stance against some.
He makes the call some want him to make.
He makes deals with others.
The war room is where Sonny gets to shine.
As he begins to put his action in place, the coaches are not happy. Coach Penn tells him that he’s going to make it easy for him and he’s going to quit.
A great line here, Sonny tells Penn , “Don’t quit. See what I do from here. You’re going to like this.”
He comes up with a plan, and though his coaching staff doesn’t agree with him or his choices, he demands that they allow him to work. He demands quiet. He needs to focus as his plan pulls together.
That’s exactly what he does and in a dramatic way.
Watching a movie such as this, with so many characters, an important aspect is how well those characters interact and relate to one another. Sometimes you’ll get a large cast and 70% to 80% of them relate really well. Yet, you have a small group of them that just don’t fit in or just don’t work with the others. I liked the entire cast of this film.
The only part that I struggled with, and it wasn’t a huge struggle, in the casting was the age difference between Costner and Garner. There’s about 20 years difference between the two of them. For some, that’s not much. For me, it was just a little hard to swallow. Getting past the look of their age difference, though, they were a perfect pairing from their perspective characters.
Dennis Leary was a great choice for the coach. I would never think of him as a coach character, but he did a great job. He brought his all too familiar edginess to the role and he played against Costner remarkably well. In several scenes they went toe-to-toe and neither came across as a weaker position or held a more dominant control of the scene.
I really liked Chadwick Boseman (Vontae) in this film, also. He has played a few smaller things and even done some television. However, he didn’t really jump into people’s view until he was in 42 playing Jackie Robinson. He’s a strong young man physically and he demands you to notice him. As Vontae, he plays ball with heart and always does his best. He’s raising his nephews after losing his beloved sister. He knows his passion is football and he wants to make sure that he is taken. He is a compelling character.
Costner simply shines in this movie. I am a Costner fan as I said earlier (not every film per se, but overall yes). Sonny knows football. He understands the game. He has a vision and going into Draft Day he has a plan to obtain it. You can see his struggle knowing his job is on the line. You can see his internal struggle as he tries to figure out how to handle being a dad. He tries to handle agents and athletes calling him; keeping his composure and wanting the best for them. He struggles with his mother, whom he doesn’t have the best relationship with. He struggles with Brian Drew, who feels like he’s being pushed out of his quarterback position. It seems like everyone wants something from him; yet no one wants what he wants. At one point he throws a laptop out of frustration to make his point. I connected with that. A short-fused person myself, I’ve broken a few electronics in my day; yes, including a laptop.
The struggles Sonny faces reminds me of the walk that many Christians struggle with in their faith. How many times does a Christian walk a Godly path, and yet, everyone seems to want something contrary from him? How many times do Christians have to face peers, family, or loved ones that try to get us to go down a different path or against what our conscious tells us? Sonny has a plan, yet most don’t care about anything that he wants. All the majority of people want is for him to follow their advice.
Sonny has one true support, Ali. Where Sonny had Ali to confide in, Christians have one to confide in, as well. Jesus is there for us and our Heavenly Father listens to us when we seek him. When struggles become so heavy, people, especially men, try harder and harder to stand on our own. Yet, Jesus tells us directly in Matt 11: 28-30
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”
As a younger man I had no idea what eggs had to do with the Bible. It wasn’t until I became a Bible student and started looking as to what God’s Word actually told me did I learn what a yoke was. A device to attach livestock so they can walk together and work together.
Jesus is telling us to look into God’s Word, find the path that he lead, and hook ourselves spiritually to him. Once we do that, we will find rest for our souls. NOT our physical beings, but our spiritual.
The one scripture that kept popping into my mind while watching Draft Day is one that I have posted in my classroom and I have marked in my Bible. It is a daily struggle for me, though I desire to one day be able to say I have conquered this weakness.
Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
I will caution all, there is some major language in the movie. Originally the rating committee gave it an R rating. However, when petitioned, they agreed to mark it as PG-13. You don’t have to worry about nudity, which is nice for a change in a big budget sports film.
I have to give this a top marking. I walked out without negatives to say. It was an exciting, edgy, and a non-predictable movie. You have a feeling who Sonny is going to go with, but then things happen and you really begin to question until it comes down to the clock. From the first pick to the rest, Sonny becomes a master GM and one with a mission.
I give this a 5!
There aren’t explosions, or aliens, or superheroes flying around. It doesn’t need them.
It’s just a great solid movie within itself.
Go see it.
I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.