Kevin Costner in recent day has had a bit of resurgence in his career. After films like “Waterworld” Costner had become something of a joke in Hollywood and did have some good films since then, none were big hits and wasn’t always getting offered the best roles. However after a good recent turn in the movie “The Company Men”, he got a high profile supporting role as Jonathan Kent in Zack Snyder’s superhero update “Man of Steel”. Since then he has started to have his resurgence. He took the Liam Neeson “old man is badass” approach in Mcg’s “3 Days to Kill”. Now he has returned to a genre of film that has been commonly associated with Costner’s career, sports. This Costner’s trades his baseball for a football, in what seems like the NFL’s response to the Oscar nominated “Moneyball”. Sadly this film has little of what that or Costner’s past sports films had going for them. Although Costner is good in the lead role, the film lacks an interesting human story that would make for an engaging watch, and an exciting third act isn’t enough to save for a boring first two acts and seemingly hollow resolution.
It’s Draft Day for the NFL and the Cleveland Browns have the number one draft pick. The general manager of the organization must make some difficult choices. Choices that could potentially put the team on course for a Super Bowl championship. While dealing also with tough personal stuff and a fierce head coach, the question remains to the team as a whole, can General Manager Sonny Weaver make the right choices and put a championship caliber team on the field or will this lead the team into an even greater abyss?
As I wrote earlier, the first two acts are so boring and uninteresting and boring. I’m all for character development and heavy dialogue but there isn’t much to invest your emotions in or get into. There is a lot of stuff dealing with Sonny and his sort of secret girlfriend that works with him that just is so underwritten. She is kinda mad at him and you never get a good reason why she is and even after she gets over it her character is so emotionless and bland that she still has the same emotion she did when she was mad at him. Part of that can be due to the lackluster performance from the usually good Jennifer Gardner. It doesn’t help that Gardner and Costner have zero on screen chemistry together.
Meanwhile Sonny is also being compared to his father a lot in the movie and serves as another big plot development for the character that is fairly more interesting because it takes a long time to develop and does give some more depth to him as a character. As far as the human grounded story behind all these stats and sports talk, that’s about as interesting as it gets. Sure Costner’s character goes and visits some of the players that he could draft and the movie tries to get you emotionally involved in those stories as well, however they are nothing more than passing detours that are cold and distant that as an audience member couldn’t get emotionally into either.
Where the film exceeds at is in the third act with the actually draft day taking place. It is exciting and actually heart pounding. I was yawning back in my seat for the first two acts, then when this moment came I had to sit forward and watch closely. The back office dealings were fascinating and riddled with tension. However you know the pay off and the story resolution can’t deliver for the audience. The movie takes place on draft day so all you are going to see is the draft day so all of these radical picks and headliner moves that Sonny makes you’ll never get to see if they actually work out, if the character was right. As a character arc there is some nice resolution there but as for the premise of the film it cannot deliver the proper resolution we all want to see. Also since this is not a true story the filmmakers could not put some text on the screen saying “The Browns went on to win the Super Bowl” because that would be a cheap way of trying to tie up the ending.
Outside of the weak script the directing is really good. Ivan Rietman has shown in the past he is an Oscar level director and while he never evaluates the weak script into anything special, he does have a considerable amount of talent behind the camera. The use of split screening the screen when two character are talking of the phone but also the bodies of the people overlapped the divider, making it feel like they were in the same room. I thought that was a pretty neat trick. Aside from Jennifer Gardner, he gets good performances out his actors. In particular from Kevin Costner and Dennis Leary as the Browns fiery head coach.
When it gets down to it, the film cannot survive the two boring first couple of act. Aside from the lead character, the characters are shallow and don’t have much to them. The resolution is non existent because of the way the movie is structured. The film’s thrilling final act is the best part of the film and Ivan Rietnman does a good job behind the camera but all in all, the movie that tried to be football’s “Moneyball” did the thing that should never happen with a sports movie, it was boring.