Summit Entertainment via Everett Collection
When a movie opts to play inside baseball with a particular industry, it runs two risks: alienating the people outside looking in ("What the hell is all this mumbo jumbo?"), or alienating the people tightly connected to the underworld on display ("They got it all wrong!"). On special occasions, you have a film like Draft Day, which strikes out in both areas, somehow feigning expertise with such vigor as to befuddle strangers to behind-the-scenes football and frustrate those with an inborn knowledge of the underworld. As a member of the former community, I was bored stiff by the nonstop industry jabber. I was surprised to find, after our viewing of the movie, that a sports-savvy friend was even more aggravated with the film for everything they got so very, very wrong.
But really, neither of these is the true crime of Draft Day. Even on the promise of delivering a bona fide curtain pull on the NFL, all the film really owes us is a good story. Instead, Draft Day banks on the appeal of its would-be authenticity — this is how football people talk, act, eat, do business, grimace, throw laptops on draft day! — as a stand-in for any material we might otherwise be able to care about. The film slaps Kevin Costner's Sonny Weaver Jr., beleaguered general manager of the Cleveland Browns, with just about every go-to leading man conflict in the book (problems at work, problems with his girlfriend, problems with his family) in hopes that something will land in the neighborhood of emotional legitimacy... or, more plausibly, in hopes that it'll play enough like an attempt at a screenplay to warrant all the stats talk he's really there to spout.
His supporting cast has even less to do — Jennifer Garner is his all smiles romantic partner whose vehement love for football is supposed to make her interesting to us (What?! But she's a girl!). Ellen Burstyn is Sonny's disapproving mother, who has a penchant for wistful staring. Denis Leary is a coach who yells a lot.
Summit Entertainment via Everett Collection
The one vein of character work that stands out as a near success comes attached to the line of potential drafts. Josh Pence plays draft frontrunner Bo Callahan who Sonny has a bad feeling about. Chadwick Boseman is the underdog linebacker who we know we're supposed to like because he takes his nephews to gymnastics. In a post-Moneyball world, Sonny is accessing the humanity in the boys he's considering for a career on his field. Hell, he's even willing to overlook the troubled past of Arian Foster because he trusts the boy's dad (I think Terry Crews is contractually obligated to appear in any movie about football). It's thin material that amounts to a disjointed explosion, but it rings as the movie's most interesting stuff. Unfortunately, it's couriered through Sonny, a character who we're barely allowed to meet.
The tragedy of this conclusion is that most of the cast members, Costner included, are giving moreover enjoyable performances — accolades in particular to 25-year-old Griffin Newman as fish-out-of-water intern Rick, suffering through the worst first day of work imaginable. The small comedy offered by Newman and a few others (bullpen fixtures like Wade Williams and Veep's Timothy Simons) is treated like an occasional garnish, but amounts to much-craved sustenance when it pervades the tasteless and stale football blather.
Blather that will detract anybody just hoping to catch a fun sports movie, and blather that will turn off the most high-minded of football fans craving some degree of industrial accuracy. In either case, the blather exists in absence of much otherwise. Without any real characters operating in this dense, hectic, ostensibly colorful world of the NFL, it feels as vacant as Sun Life Stadium on opening weekend. (Right?)
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For Emmy-nominee Henry Ian Cusick, it’s difficult being immortalized for just one role and possibly just one line.
Spanning six seasons, Cusick was everyone’s favorite “brotha” portraying the love-sick Desmond on ABC's Sci-fi phenom Lost. But with critical acclaim and widespread viewer appreciation, comes a bit of type casting. So, what did Cusick do? After securing eternal love between Desmond and Penny, he completely flipped the script and has become the womanizing Stephen Finch on ABC’s newest political drama Scandal.
As Kerry Washington’s right-hand man, Cusick is the farthest thing from a love-drunk puppy. In fact, Stephen has dabbled in prostitution, makes no apologies about it and will continue to shock viewers with sins that would have Desmond running for the hills (or into the jungle). Stephen is far more “smoke monster” than good guy here.
“When I left Lost ... I read the pilot [for Scandal], I really liked it and there was a line in it that for me was the hook,” he said. “When I say to Olivia in the cloakroom, 'I’m not a good guy.' That was something I could get my teeth into.”
Playing a character that was the opposite of his Lost claim to fame was exactly what he craved — no “Dharma Initiative.” “They are so not the same character,” he said. “Desmond was like a rock, he was this incredibly good guy, a guy that doesn’t really exist.”
Even though Desmond was such a great character to play, so great he got nominated for an Emmy in 2006, Cusick said dissecting just one purpose of getting back to his long-lost love didn’t open the character up to much complexity.
There’s more layers to his new role and with Stephen, he gets to explore the dimensions of a real bad boy, someone without true love as a moral compass. Cusick went all the way with this role, even chopping off those luscious brown locks of gorgeous hair the world grew to love in his days on the island.
Why the visit to the barber? “I know, I’m like, ‘I shouldn’t have done that!’” he joked. “It’s always good to mix it up. The thing about being on a show like Lost for such a long time is that people come to associate you with Desmond. They don’t say Ian or Henry, they say Desmond.” Now he’s looking for fans to say Stephen.
Even while looking forward to a change of pace, Ian still looks back on Lost with nothing but fond memories and that conversation starter of a final episode. “Just after it ended, people came up to me in the market saying how much they loved it,” he said of the Lost finale. “I also have the negative side, people think ‘Man, you ruined the show, why did they do that?’ It was very contentious. How do you end the show to make everyone [happy]?” he said. Cusick thought the finale was in many ways a beautiful ending but did say there could have been a little more closure to characters aside from Jack. “We could have done with some more episodes just to have the other characters get to their endings,” he said. If Lost fans miss Cusick on the sci-fi circuit, no sweat. He’s bringing his magic to cult favorite Fringe.He’s set to appear as an agent at the tail end of this season, in who knows what world at this point. His character sets the stage for Season Five, if the execs at Fox deem another season worthy.“Fingers crossed,” he said. “It’s similar to Lost in that it’s very high stakes. It was great working with John Noble and Joe Chappelle ... It reminded me of Lost.” Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. EST on ABC Were you a Desmond Hume fan? Do you like Ian as Desmond or Stephen better? Are you excited for Cusick’s cameo on Fringe? Let us know in the comments section below.
More: Scandal Star Henry Ian Cusick: How Powerful is a Lost Alum? ABC's Scandal Review