The TV commercial currently running for the sports-related Kevin Costner movie Draft Day includes the following quote: "Every bit as good as Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. Pete Hammond from Movieline said that. Ed Johnson-Ott from NUVO says this: Pete Hammond is out of his mind. To equate Draft Day to those extraordinary films is ridiculous. Certainly, every person is entitled to their opinion. My opinion is that Pete Hammond is a quote-whore or a chump. Or both.
That said, let me assure you I don't intend to trash Draft Day. Despite some missteps, the movie is enjoyable. First and foremost, its creators earn points for their nerve. Imagine the courage it took to try to get funding for a major motion picture about negotiating. Negotiating, for Pete's sake!
Of course, the negotiations take place on the day of the NFL Draft, where the signing of new players becomes a nationally televised three-ring circus. The story centers on Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner), who will be trading for the number one draft pick, or something like that. (I should note that I don't know much about football or football negotiations. The only reason I know anything about it at all is because my son loves the sport and I love my son).
Sonny spent most of his life living in the shadow of his father. Following the death of his dad a few days earlier, the NFL Draft allows him the opportunity to establish himself as his own man. He must also deal with the agendas of the head coach (Denis Leary, doing the same rat-a-tat anger spewing schtick he always does) and the team owner (Frank Langella, acting entitled and maybe stoned behind expensive sunglasses).
The negotiations are entertaining. It's a pleasure to see Kevin Costner portraying a character similar to those from his glory days, forging ahead whether he is ready or not and occasionally pausing to laugh at his own hubris. The various football players, agents and managers are played big and bold. Chadwick Boseman from 42 appears as one of the athletes and Sean Combs turns up as an agent. A boatload of real-life football guys and media people make cameo appearances.
Director Ivan Reitman (I would normally list a few of his films here, but his good ones were made too long ago) opts to present the back-and-forth between the teams by extensive use of split screens that include overlapping images of shoulders and stuff. It makes everything look like a zippy ESPN documentary, which seems appropriate.
The parts of Draft Day I just described are fun. But wait, there's more. Apparently concerned that the negotiations would not enough to hold the attention of a wide audience, the screenplay slaps some relationship issues onto the story. Turns out that the team number-cruncher (Jennifer Garner, who shines when she smiles and looks like she's smelling something unpleasant when she doesn't) is also Sonny's pregnant girlfriend, providing a touch of romantic give and take. And it turns out Sonny's mother (Ellen Burstyn) has picked Draft Day to scatter her husband's ashes on the football field, and she wants Sonny to take a break to participate. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.
Does any of this reflect reality in any way? Damned if I know. All I can tell you is that Draft Day is most certainly not every bit as good as Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. But as an uneven latter-day Kevin Costner vehicle, it's not bad at all.
Low-key, engaging dual character studies from first-time director Ritesh Batra. In Mumbai, lunchboxes are delivered to businessmen each day. Curious why her chronically-preoccupied husband doesn't comment on her new recipes, Ila (Nimrat Kaur) puts a note in his lunchbox. She realizes the lunchbox is being mis-delivered when she receives a note back from a different man, soon-to-retire accountant Saajan (Irfan Khan), and an odd friendship begins. Kaur is very good, while Khan gives a wonderfully nuanced performance as a man going through the motions who is drawn back into life through his contacts with Ila and an eager-to-please trainee (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) on the job.
The Raid 2
Ultra-violent action film. After fighting through a building full of thugs in The Raid: Redemption, police officer Rama (Iko Uwais) goes undercover again, leading to lots more fight scenes in a variety of locations. Gareth Evan's film is stuffed with dazzling fights combining martial arts with all sorts of other battle styles. The bloody action is mesmerizing, particularly in a huge fight in the gray mud of a prison yard, where the mayhem becomes artful. Bring your droogs and enjoy the well-staged carnage.