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In the world of movies, what does a celebrated baseball player do after he leaves the cinematic field? If he happens to be Kevin Costner, who made his fair share of baseball movies, he makes a little detour into golf (“Tin Cup”) before coming back as a general manager for the NFL, in a film called “Draft Day.”

Costner has been in three major ball-playing movies, including “Bull Durham” (1988), “Field of Dreams” (1989) and “For Love of the Game” (1999), which is probably why he looks right in his element in a sports movie. The wonder is that he hasn’t done more. He looks just as much at home on the football field as he did on the mound.

“Draft Day” is a sizable bite of football fairy tale, and though enjoying the film would be helped aplenty if you’re a fan of the game or a fan of Costner, you may be converted by his performance.

Draft Day
Rating
Director Ivan Reitman
Run Time 111 minutes
Language English
Opens Now showing

Costner plays a lean (kind of) and tanned Sonny Weaver Jr. — the fictional general manager for the Cleveland Browns — and generates great chemistry with co-star Jennifer Garner. Plus, unlike Costner’s previous performance in “3 Days to Kill,” he’s not a ridiculous CIA brute, but a decent and likable guy in a not-too-expensive suit. If you were a promising young football player, you’d probably trust this man too.

The film is set on the most significant day in the NFL’s off-season, draft day, and Weaver is cutting deals left, right and center as he zigzags from meeting rooms to his office and from yelling into the phone to shouting at his staff. The whole package is delirious with excitement, intoxicated with its own colossal machismo. Strangely enough, it’s not offensive, but fascinating, and you get to understand the huge pressure that managers face — to assemble a team that will win, but also one that the fans can love and root for.

The Browns have had a pretty stale year due to injuries and some uninspired performances, and team owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella) gives Weaver an ultimatum: Either he “makes a splash” on draft day, or he’s out. This is especially humiliating to Weaver, the Browns’ legendary head coach (and his own dad) Sonny Weaver Sr., to rejuvenate the team. Now his father is dead and relations with his mom (Ellen Burstyn) remain strained, as she calls to tell him that his decision-making sucks. On top of all the stress balls hurled at him from every corner, the women he is secretly seeing, Ali (Garner) — who also happens to be the Browns’ salary analyst — chooses this day, of all days, to inform him that she’s pregnant.

What makes “Draft Day” so impressive isn’t just the glamor of American football but the tornado of cash that accompanies and, ultimately, defines it. The sort of big bucks Weaver and the other managers are throwing at football players could end world poverty, reverse climate change and save rain forests. Not that anyone’s interested. It’s almost refreshing to see so much greed and egotism, like the Lehman shock never happened.

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