A Forgotten Kevin Costner Drama Is Trending On Streaming
2014's Draft Day is a fantastic film, with Kevin Costner and an all-star cast, and you don't have to be a football fan to enjoy it.
With the new season of Yellowstone comes yet another wave of interest in Kevin Costner’s work. That’s likely why one of his lesser-known films, 2014’s Draft Day, spiked over the weekend on HBO Max, ranking in the top five most popular films on the streaming service. Costner isn’t the only reason to watch the film, however; it boasts a fantastic all-star cast and and a wide appeal even if you aren’t a football fan.
Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, which are just as hapless in the film as they are in real life. The film takes place within a single day – NFL Draft Day, obviously – in which Weaver pulls off some dramatic, inexplicable trades in an effort to better the team. Mix in some human drama and fantastic performances, and you get a surprisingly entertaining film from director Ivan Reitman.
In the film, the Browns are struggling to compete on the gridiron and need some impact players in the draft to turn their fortunes around. They own the #7 pick, which will give them a good player, but team owner (Oscar nominee Frank Langella) wants to make a splash, and pressures Kevin Costner’s Sonny to trade the team’s #7 pick and the first-round picks for the next two seasons in order to get the #1 pick, which is likely to be Wisconsin quarterback prospect Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), the most highly-rated player in the draft.
Sonny has his doubts about Callahan, and shocks everyone by taking a highly-underrated player, Vontae Mack (Chadwick Boseman), instead. Costner doubts Callahan’s heart and likes Mack’s intangibles, but his pick angers his coaching staff and his owner, who now wants his head. The rest of the film is then a dizzying roller-coaster as Weaver wheels and deals to salvage the draft, get the players he wants, save his job, and his relationship with his girlfriend and family.
The high-energy film has plenty of twists and turns, and even if you don’t follow football, the film is highly relatable and watchable, due to the great cast and director Ivan Reitman’s deft approach. Sadly, this would be the Ghostbusters’ director’s final film to helm before his death in 2022, especially when it showed that he still had the ability to create a great movie experience before ailing health overtook him. Unfortunately, the film flopped at the box office, earning only $29 million, but it has found a second life on Blu-ray and streaming.
Before he found international fame as Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman (who had just played Jackie Robinson in 42 the year before) was hesitant to play another athlete in this film, but was convinced to do so after a personal pitch from Ivan Reitman.
Jennifer Garner (Alias) stars as Ali Parker, the team’s salary cap analyst, who also just happens to be Sonny’s girlfriend, and just informed him she is pregnant. Garner has great chemistry with Costner, and provides the voice of reason between Costner’s Weaver and Denis Leary’s Coach Vince Penn, who clash throughout the film.
Tom Welling, who was coming off of a decade of playing Clark Kent/Superman in Smallville, plays Brian Drew, the Browns’ current quarterback who is not happy that the team is about to draft Callahan. He’s quite good in a small but pivotal role.
Among those appearing in cameo-like roles is Sam Elliott (Tombstone) as the Wisconsin football coach, who would go on to star in the prequel series for Yellowstone, 1883. Chris Berman and other ESPN personalities appear in the film as well, playing themselves, giving the film a nice sense of authenticity, and retired NFL stars Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis, Bernie Kosar and Jim Brown appear as well.
Football fans may nitpick the logic of the second half of Draft Day, as Costner makes some improbable trades to come out on top. It’s a bit of a stretch, but Kevin Costner and Ivan Reitman manage to make it far too entertaining to question the logic.