GENRE - Drama, Sports
CAST - Kevin Costner as Sonny Weaver Jr.; Jennifer Garner as Ali; Ellen Burstyn as Barb Weaver; Denis Leary as Coach Vince Penn; Tom Welling as Brian Drew; Frank Langella as Harvey Molina
DISTRIBUTOR - Summit Entertainment
IN THEATERS - April 11, 2014
REVIEWER - Bob Hoose
Football is in Cleveland’s DNA. I mean, c’mon, pro ball was born just an hour down the road in Canton. And so the longing, the desire, the need for a hit-’em-hard-and-slug-it-out-in-the-trenches winning team in the heartland of the pigskin sport lives strong in every man, woman and child in the city. Or so it seems, anyway.
Of course there’s really very little any of those men, women and children can do about the Cleveland Browns’ recent troubles―no matter how loudly they yell and scream on the radio talk shows. They can’t hire the right coaches. They can’t scout the best players. They can’t do anything about making the team a winning franchise once again.
That job, and all it entails, falls squarely on the shoulders of the team’s general manager, Sonny Weaver Jr. And boy does he feel the weight of it.
The fact is, things have been a little shaky for Sonny as of late. His top-shelf quarterback had promise, but blew out a knee. The new big-dollar coach, Vince Penn, is bucking Sonny’s every decision. The owner looked him square in the eye and threatened to fire him if he didn’t make a “big splash” in the upcoming draft. And to top it all off, the team’s financial exec, Ali, told him she’s pregnant … with his child.
Sonny isn’t sure how to deal with any of those situations right now. He knows what his gut says. It tells him to do the right thing. To stand by Ali. To pick the best and most well-grounded players he can find―even if one of them is a completely un-splashy middle linebacker. To just be consistent. Those are the kinds of choices his father would have made.
His father, however, has already crossed into the big end zone in the sky. And if you take all the angry faces and yelling voices into account, “consistent” won’t cut it this time. It’s all about today, and it’s all or nothing now. That, to tell the truth, makes Sonny feel desperate. And a desperate GM from Cleveland is like blood in the water on Draft Day.
It’s clear that Sonny is at the line of scrimmage. That it’s 4th and 15 at the 30 yard line. That if he doesn’t rally his team in a hurry he won’t have one any more. And without giving too much away, I can tell you that his jukes are pretty shaky at first in an attempt to deal with some of the pressures he’s feeling. Ultimately, though, he pivots toward upright choices in both his personal and professional life.
It’s made plain that Sonny puts a premium on honesty and healthy grounding as it applies to the players on his team. He proves himself to be an honorable man to work for. He’s also a man who gained much from his parents, despite the strains in their relationships. One of the lessons he takes with him from that? “Men are supposed to step up.” And Vontae Mack, a young player in the draft, steps up too, taking on the responsibility of caring for his nephews after his sister dies unexpectedly. Another player, when tempted with a fistful of unclaimed cash, reportedly sends the money back to its owner.
Sonny’s mom tells him that his deceased father had requested that Sonny read a “Gaelic blessing” while the man’s ashes were spread on the football field.
Though we never see them together in bed, there’s no guesswork in the fact that Sonny and Ali have a “secret” sexual relationship. After all, she tells him she’s pregnant with their child. And as for that secret status? Well, Coach Penn takes a dig at Sonny about his boss’s history of “tapping” one of his execs. We see the couple kiss.
Some of the other team coaches have a lengthy conversation about the sex life of a draft pick possibility—crudely debating how many women he “bangs” per day on average. We see that young quarterback with his shirt off, hugging two scantily clad girls in a webpage photo. The camera ogles a woman at a football game who’s wearing a formfitting crop top.
Sonny gets angry and smashes a laptop into the wall (only to then find out it wasn’t his laptop). A player reportedly “tore up” Sonny’s office in anger. To make a sour point, Coach Penn sets a file folder on fire and drops it on Sonny’s desk. (It’s quickly put out with a fire extinguisher.)
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word. A dozen s-words. “God” is combined with “d‑‑n” another dozen times. Jesus’ names are misused four or five. We hear repeated uses of “d‑‑n,” “a‑‑,” “h‑‑‑,” “b‑‑tard” and “b‑‑ch.” A crude reference is made to male genitals. An intern reports that an angry player suggested he have “intercourse with his mother.”
Drug and Alcohol Content
A group of celebrators drink beer and hard liquor after the draft. A player talks of being so drunk at his birthday party that he couldn’t remember any of it.
For a football fan, a film about the backroom machinations in and around the NFL draft can be a fun cinematic diversion. And that’s especially true when that pic is also well-acted and comes complete with some positive relationship choices―the kinds of warmhearted moments designed to please even those date night participants who lack savvy in the area of pigskin posturing.
On the other hand, if you’ve seen from afar the heated interactions on the sidelines of an actual football game, it only takes the slightest lip-reading ability to recognize that coarse language is part and parcel with the gridiron culture. And Draft Day‘s screenwriters have made sure to include those kinds of profane exclamations, just to make it all feel real, of course.
The dialogue is blaspheme-laden and crude enough, in fact, that the film originally earned an R rating from the MPAA for “brief strong language and sexual references.” But the pic’s piqued “coaches” started yelling at the “refs,” insisting the call wasn’t fair. And after a quick look at the instant replay—without requesting even minor content adjustments—the ratings board decided to put their flags back in their pockets and rule the play a PG-13. That means any sports fan walking into this flick will be met with much more than “hup-hup” and “Omaha!” And no lip-reading is required.
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