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dir Ivan Reitman
scr Rajiv Joseph, Scott Rothman
prd Ivan Reitman, Ali Bell, Joe Medjuck
with Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Ellen Burstyn, Chadwick Boseman, Sean Combs, Josh Pence, Terry Crews, Tom Welling, Sam Elliott, Rosanna Arquette
release US 11.Apr.14, UK 3.Oct.14
14/US Lionsgate 1h50
Take your pick: Costner and Garner
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Essentially a remake of Moneyball set in the world of American football, this lively film never breaks out of its insulated subculture. So the script never drums up interest for anyone but the money men and fans who don't care about anything but sport. Nothing connects the strong performances and snappy dialog to the real world.
With only 12 hours until the NFL draft, apparently the most important event in the history of humanity, team managers engage in backroom deals while the sports media are in a frenzy of anticipation. After trading for the first pick, Cleveland manager Sonny (Costner) is pressured by his owner (Langella) to select rising-star quarterback Bo (Pence), even though the coach (Leary) wants another player (Boseman) who can work with their current quarterback (Welling). Meanwhile, Sonny realises that he can no longer hide his relationship with team financial director Ali (Garner), because she's pregnant.
For a film that takes place largely in phone conversations, director Reitman takes an enjoyably whizzy visual approach that keeps everything brisk and fluid, making the most of the starry cast (including sports cameos galore). But the cranked-up sense of urgency will only work on diehard NFL fans. Everyone else will struggle to understand why any of this matters, even as the script shouts about the high stakes in a melange of overhyped TV clips and social media hysterics.
At least the performances are measured and engaging. Costner is relaxed and solid, even if the role isn't much of a stretch. His best scenes are with Garner, whose role is included presumably so women in the audience don't lose the will to live. She and Burstyn (as Sonny's mother) are solid but essentially irrelevant, although their sentimentalised relationship dramas add the only resonance the film has. The sprawling supporting cast adds plenty of spark
The actors also do what they can to obscure the painfully predictable plot, but they can't make up for the script's lack of irony. When it continually proclaims that what's happening is "history in the making", everyone in the audience knows better. Sonny's personal story is much more interesting, but is dismissed as a mere distraction. Ironically, there was indeed momentous significance to the 2014 NFL draft, but what kind of movie will be made about the league'sfirst openly gay player?
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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