Tag Archives: nfl

‘Concussion,’ Smith Let Down By Script

Concussion_posterWell…it’s going to be awkward watching my next NFL game…

Based on a true story, “Concussion” stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who fought against the National Football League from suppressing his research on the brain damage suffered by football players. Albert Brooks and Alec Baldwin co-star as Peter Landesman writes and directs.

Will Smith doesn’t do too much acting nowadays, but when he does the film ranges from average (“Focus”) to dumpster fire (“After Earth”); it can be argued his last good movie was “I Am Legend” in 2007. “Concussion” falls into the former category, as it is a film that has an important message and a strong central performance, but falls flat in most every other category.

Movie accents are a fickle business. They can sometimes propel a performance, like Leonardo DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond,” but all too often they come off as cheesy and derail a film before it can even get going. Luckily, Will Smith’s African accent isn’t distracting and actually adds to his performance.

Smith’s Omalu is a kind, sympathetic man who growing up in Nigeria wanted nothing more than to be an American. So he continuously does things to try and fit in and help his fellow countrymen; which makes it all the more painful and confusing to him when they reject his discovery of what football hits do to the brain. Smith does a lot with his eyes, and even though he is at the center of the plot and in most every scene, it is a nuanced performance.

Alec Baldwin and Albert Brooks both give entertaining and dedicated performances as two of Omalu’s associates, continuing to back him even when the NFL and even FBI threaten him.

Much like “Spotlight” angered us by what the church did to hide the priest sexual abuses, “Concussion” does not paint the NFL in a good light. Not only did they reject Omalu and his research, but they had known about what multiple concussions does to the human brain for years and had said nothing. It is a problem that has come into the mainstream in the past several years, but it isn’t going away anytime soon. I love football and played it for eight years, but this film isn’t going to make me (or likely anyone) stop watching, and that may make you feel guilty when you see what men go through, essentially risking their minds and lives for our entertainment.

Impactful story and performances aside, there is really nothing else done here worth mentioning. The script acts like a cliffnotes of what happened with Omalu, flowing more like scene-scene-scene than an actual fluid film. The film doesn’t even build to any real head, but instead jumps ahead a few years to show the aftermath of everything. The editing is also at times awkward and off-putting, with various cuts to different angles mid-monologue, with the dialogue is almost lagging behind. And this was shocking to me because it is spliced together by William Goldenberg, who won an Oscar for the brilliantly edited “Argo.”

Combining the confused script and the editing, several sequences simply make no sense. There is one scene when Omalu’s wife believes she is being followed by a car, and then in the next scene she is shown having a miscarriage. The correlation? The purpose? Not a clue.

“Concussion” is the very definition of a rainy Saturday afternoon cable movie. You can have it on in the background and if you miss a scene here or there it won’t affect your understanding of what’s going on. Smith’s efforts are to be commended (he earned a Golden Globe nomination) and the film’s intentions are pure, but really I was never moved by the film itself, and by the time it really starts to become anything resembling interesting, it is almost over.

Critics Rating: 5/10



‘Draft Day’ an Engaging and Fun NFL Ad

Draft_Day_poster            As if there isn’t proof enough that the NFL doesn’t have an offseason, here comes just another piece of evidence to support the claim: I give you “Draft Day”, the new film starring Kevin Costner.

Directed by Ivan Reitman, the film follows Cleveland Browns general manger Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner), who trades three of his team’s future first round draft picks for the number one overall pick. This move is met with scrutiny and anger from much of the organization, especially the head coach, played by Denis Leary. Jennifer Garner costars and multiple real-like NFL personalities, like Commissioner Roger Goodell and Deion Sanders, make cameos.

It is easy to write this film off as one big ad for the NFL, because the commercials and trailer certainly portray it as one when they insert real-life players, despite no real players appearing or even being mentioned in the film (aside from Texans running back Arian Foster, who is actually in an acting role as a draft prospect).

But when you look past the over glamourized portrayal of the NFL, “Draft Day” is a very entertaining, at times intense, film, with shades of “Moneyball”.

Kevin Costner does a solid job as the film’s protagonist. He portrays a man who has a lot on his plate, having traded away his team’s future for a single pick (or “a cow for magic beans”, as they say in the film). On top of that, his general manager is threatening to fire him if the draft is a bust, his girlfriend tells him she is pregnant and his father passed away the week before. A lot to take in on the most important day of the year.

The real strength of the film lies in the NFL-based statistics and draft analysis. This film can be enjoyed by most everybody but the audience that will enjoy it the most is the people who like the behind-the-scenes of football; looking at potential picks and what are the skeletons hiding in their closet. In the film, everyone thinks a QB out of Wisconsin is the unanimous number one overall pick; however Sonny isn’t sold about his personality.

There are quite a few twists in “Draft Day”, some more plausible than others, but they all make for a fun time at the movies. You try and think about what Sonny is cooking up, and how he is going to save not only the Browns, but his job. It is interesting and almost insane to see what NFL GM’s go through on draft day (gasp, that’s the film’s title!) and how many last minute behind-the-scenes moves go on.

The film really doesn’t have too many flaws, as far as an entertainment standpoint goes. There is a 15 minute lag near the beginning of the film, right after Sonny makes the deal for the number one pick, but after that ends it is pretty much non-stop energy until the end of the film. Also, like I said, people who aren’t invested in the goings of the NFL may not be as entertained as people who live and breathe football (like me).

But it is worth mentioning that I saw this film with my lovely mother, who admits she knows little about the NFL besides teams and star players, and she really liked and was engaged by the film. So take that for what its worth…

I really don’t know what else to say about “Draft Day” other than I really liked it. It is a fun, engaging ride, and it was fun to try and think one step ahead of the characters and predict what Sonny possibly could be thinking. If you are a football fan, you will really enjoy this film. If you like business and statistics then you should have a good time, too. If you like bland pieces with forced love triangles, then go watch Twilight or something, because “Draft Day” is probably too interesting for you.

Critics Rating: 8/10