The closest thing us Brits have in common to the eagerly anticipated NFL draft day, is transfer deadline day in the Premier League. A day when football fans up and down the country tune in to Sky Sports News to watch presenter Jim White give himself a hernia as he fervently speculates on the latest flurry of transfer activity. It’s good fun, and does little but rouse our spirits and pique our interests. However, you wouldn’t necessarily want a film made about the occasion. This is where Ivan Reitman comes in with his drama Draft Day – entertaining it may be, but the concept itself is flawed and without the substantiality to warrant a big screen release.
Kevin Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., general manager of the Cleveland Browns, desperate to make an impact on this unforgettable draft day, and set the team up for the season ahead. So when he strikes a deal with the Seattle Seahawks for the number one pick, the much coveted Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), he has the fans onside – but not his back-room staff, as he could potentially be jeopardising the club’s future with this seemingly irrational gamble. But there’s enough time in the day to make more trades, with other young players such as Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman) and Ray Jennings (Arian Foster) waiting for their dreams to become a reality.
In some ways, Draft Day is best compared to the likes of Margin Call, all set across one fateful day, mostly in one specific location, featuring a lot of suited individuals anxiously running around an office. Yet this doesn’t have either the sharp screenplay nor the severe implications in the narrative, as no matter how much of a sports fan you are, there is a prevalent sense of triviality and insignificance to this title. You can’t help but wonder also if there is a market for this film in the UK, as an established understanding of American Football seems imperative, otherwise the terminology used may as well be in Greek.
That being said, the jargon doesn’t deem this title completely incomprehensible, as there is a human element that exists, of somebody doing all they came to save their job and reputation and appease their staff and fans. Not to mention the romantic angle featuring Ali, played by Jennifer Garner, and Sonny. Yet, unlike Moneyball, for instance, this struggles to engross and resonate with viewers quite so much on an emotional level. Instead we play up to the frivolity of it all, as a film that is exceedingly easy to enjoy, as perfect Saturday night, network TV fodder. Which, at times, can be just what the doctor ordered.
The film is also memorable from a visual experience, though not necessarily for the right reasons. Reitman implements a relatively clever split screen technique, whereby our characters overlap into the other half, yet it’s used so often it feels like a project by an enthusiastic sixth form student, who thinks that by needlessly playing around with all the different controls in an editing suite it will make them seem creative. Draft Day isn’t quite as amateur as that of course, but if you are to indulge in a Reitman picture this Autumn, Ghostbusters is being rereleased for its 30th anniversary, and it’s fair to say that it’s something of a safer bet.