Kevin Costner stars as general manager of the Cleveland Browns in this sports drama/comedy with a solid supporting cast, appealing premise/framework, and tepid plot. It’s average fare directed by Ivan Reitman with some decent insight into the inner workings of the draft/team management process in the National Football League (NFL).
The 110-minute running time all occurs within one day, draft day (of course). Filmmakers originally chose the Buffalo Bills as the location/central team, but then switched to Cleveland since production costs in Ohio were actually cheaper.
Kevin Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. He’s in familiar territory and has the necessary screen presence, acting skills, and appeal for this lead role. Ellen Burstyn plays Sonny’s mother Barb to expand Sonny’s character development a little.
Sonny must navigate the Brown’s all important first round pick that involves a possible deal with the Seattle Seahawks, quarterback Bo Callahan, played by Josh Pence (“The Social Network”) and defensive star Vontae Mack, played by Chadwick Boseman (“42,” “Get On Up,” upcoming “Black Panther”).
Jennifer Garner plays Ali, a very capable legal staff on the team named who also factors into Sonny’s personal life. Garner holds her own in her short screen time while playing on gender roles within the limiting plot (e.g. when she offers coffee to two staff members). The inspiration for Jennifer Garner’s character came from Browns capologist Megan Rogers. A spin-off movie on her would be an appealing work, especially regarding rising female fan appeal in the NFL.
Denis Leary (TV’s Rescue Me) plays Penn the head coach and Sam Elliot (Roadhouse) plays Coach Moore while Frank Langella (“Frost/Nixon”) plays the team owner Anthony Molina. Leary is such a great presence here as anyone would want him arguing for them while Molina basically fills the role of antagonist, but he’s really the one who gives Sonny the most resistance.
Terry Crews (The Expendables) also stars as Earl Jennings along with Chi McBride (The Terminal, TV’s Boston Public, Pushing Daisies) as Walt Gordon, Tom Welling (Cheaper by the Dozen, TV’s Smallville) as Brian Drew and Rosanna Arquette as Angie.
Cameos include commentators Rich Eisen and Chris Berman plus Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis, Jim Brown, Bernie Kosar, D’Quwell Jackson and current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with small roles from Arian Foster (as Ray Jennings) and Sean Combs (as Chris Crawford).
Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph make their feature film screenwriting debuts, but cannot really create a potent plot, but show signs at the satisfying ending. The long running time hurts the overall proceedings because filmmakers don’t have enough time to probably address each character, which occasionally play with stereotypes to keep audiences guessing on true motives/results.
Reitman’s split-screen techniques are fairly effective and necessary for audiences. They absorb the communications, pitches, and strategies of the team staff, agents and players. “If you’re upset, call your agent, all right? Let him have this conversation. That’s why he’s there for,” Sonny says to a player.
The “football is business then a sport” theme gets too much attention. Filmmakers should have shown more “glory” moments that entertain audiences and celebrate the game though willing audiences certainly understand the game better after seeing this film.
John Debney’s music score works well as filmmakers also incorporate Fox’s excellent NFL theme song and “Born to Rise” by Redlight King at the end, which I didn’t really care for. The make-up department had one big miscue throughout the film where Costner’s eyebrows looked very odd, especially at ending scene with Burstyn.
A decent, comprehensive work that comes recommended with several reservations (** out of four stars) and rated PG-13 (previously R) for brief strong language.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler