Sports talk radio covers this sort of "How much does he want to play?" stuff from a speculative point of view. "Draft Day" sets out to show how a Johnny Manziel or Jadeveon Clowney's stock rises and falls in the hours leading up to their big payday.
"You only get drafted once," Sonny tells his prospects. Better enjoy it.
Sonny gathers intel from his staff and steels himself to make a decision he knows the owner will not like. Then more gossip comes in, and he's on the fence, which gets the coach all worked up. Everybody is playing the angles against everybody else.
What doesn't work is the added melodrama in all this. Sonny's dad used to be the Browns' coach. His dad just died. His mom (Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn) won't get off his back.
And his not-that-secret inter-office romance (Jennifer Garner) just gave him some news.
"Draft Day" is an NFL- and ESPN-sanctioned dramedy designed to cash in on and maybe goose interest in the draft, which TV and the league have turned into a spring spectacle. It doesn't have a lot of rough edges to it, nothing unflattering to the league or the cable company in its back pocket, which only serves to remind us how this sport swallowed American sporting culture whole.
Costner and Garner are good and Langella properly menacing, but Leary has lost his fastball and seems to be holding something back in his quarrel scenes with Costner. Costner has to carry the film, which he does. But he has a hard a time making this tale of accountants and agents and athletes with off-field issues exciting.
Filling the screen with character players ranging from Chi McBride (a rival owner) to assorted NFL Network and ESPN (past and present) stars, shifting from city to city, stadium to stadium as the phone calls zip back and forth doesn't really ratchet up suspense or entertainment value.
But for the fans, it's a competent eye-opener, a movie that makes you understand Jets quarterback Geno Smith's fury at falling out of the first round and the sort of whispering campaigns that this closed culture of front-office folks mount to let them win in May, even if they don't win in the fall.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here