" Nobody goes into the valley of death. That’s why they call it the valley of death. "
— Grant Heslov, The Scorpion King

MRQE Top Critic

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Wait for the real thing on May 8. It’ll offer more drama. And who knows, it might even offer more romance.

#1 Pick

Kevin Costner in a huddle for one
Kevin Costner in a huddle for one

Draft Day is a low-scoring, multi-fumble commercial for all that’s sacred and high-minded in the National Football League.

Maybe the biggest problem with this movie is it tries to be a clarion call for all those honorable aspects of the NFL, the ones that get buried under headlines of concussions or NFL players being accused of murder, gun-toting at night clubs, drugs and other more minor offenses of the over-privileged. It’s clearly a production sanctioned by the NFL. Even Commissioner Roger Goodell makes a cameo.

Then again, maybe the biggest problem with Draft Day is its rather baffling romantic entanglement between Cleveland Browns colleagues Sonny (Kevin Costner, 3 Days to Kill) and Ali (Jennifer Garner, Butter). He’s the team’s general manager with dreams of following in his legendary late father’s footsteps and fielding a team to call his own. She’s the team’s salary cap queen. It’s hard to buy into that relationship. And, as it happens, she’s carrying his baby, something which makes them both nervous and the audience cringe.

Regardless of which is the bigger problem, it takes a while for Draft Day to get going, to finally get the direction of the story in focus.

Hall of Famers

There are three players who have Sonny’s attention. Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman, 42) is the kid with heart. Bo Callahan (Josh Pence, The Dark Knight Rises) is the shifty ladykiller quarterback. Ray Jennings (Arian Foster, a running back for the Houston Texans in real life) is... Well... He’s legacy. His father played for the Cleveland Browns but Ray’s character is so ill-defined as to be inconsequential.

Naturally, the desire is for teams to draft the best, brightest, toughest and most trouble-free players. And, gosh, a kid with heart is tough to beat. So who will Sonny finally take as his first pick on draft day? If only the ride to the inevitable were more entertaining.

Draft Day lacks the humor and romance of Jerry Maguire; the wit and heart of Moneyball; and the magic and soul of Costner’s own Field of Dreams. In the sports movies hall of fame, this one’s a non-starter.

While tracking a 13-hour countdown leading up to the first draft pick at Radio City Music Hall, Draft Day feels more like an investigative procedural than a sports movie. It certainly doesn’t qualify as any sort of rom-hyphenate. Romantic-comedy? No. Romantic-drama? Nah. Romantic-sports flick for boys and girls? Get outta here.

Slow Down the Clock

Every once in a while a movie comes around that raises a somewhat interesting question: Why the heck was it made?

A-listers Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner saw something in the material, as well as famed director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters). But the screenplay by a pair of first-time feature film scribes, Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph, is tone deaf while it leads up to what is no-doubt calculated to be a rousing, stand-up-and-cheer finale as Sonny wheels and deals and tries to right earlier wrongs and misplays.

Probably the most interesting thing to be taken from Draft Day is a reminder that Tom Brady, the legendary New England Patriots quarterback, was pick 199 in the 2000 NFL draft. That was way down there in the sixth round.

There are loads of phone conversations as one GM attempts to out-psych another in mental games of chicken. Slick cross-cutting and image splicing liven up the presentation.

But when a movie like this tries to make a life lesson out of reading the entire playbook, the best response is to sack it.