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A night at "Draft Day"

By Rich Heldenfels Published: January 30, 2014

Earlier this week I saw the Browns-connected movie "Draft Day," which does not premiere until April 11. The studio had a screening of the movie to build buzz about the film much the way the trailer above is expected to do as people are football-conscious because of the Super Bowl.

You know, the Super Bowl. That thing the Browns have never been to.

The movie focuses on the Browns' embattled GM (Kevin Costner), their abrasive coach (Denis Leary) and what happens when the Browns have a chance at the first pick in the NFL draft -- and the top prospect, a much praised quarterback. What should Costner give up to get that pick?

And is the QB the right guy to take -- or should he go for some lower profile but promising players, including one who keeps lobbying Costner? (The lobbying one is played by Chadwick Boseman, who seems to be trying to match Costner in appearances in sports movies; he was Jackie Robinson in "42" and Floyd Little in "The Express," another movie with Cleveland ties.)

This is not one of those movies where Detroit or Toronto plays Cleveland. A lot of it was shot in the Cleveland area, and later I will tell you about some of the sets, which I visited during production.* 

Both the Browns and the NFL cooperated with the movie, so you get real team names and faces. And the production makes it clear where it is taking place; Jim Brown and Bernie Kosar are seen briefly and, at the preview, I was listening to Tony Rizzo's radio voice in the movie itself even as Rizzo was sitting in the row behind me.

The audience was receptive, especially to lines that had echoes of the Browns' woes in recent years. Since the movie was made before the most recent Browns dramas, the lines show how knowing the writers are -- or how continuous Cleveland trauma is.

Whatever  the movie may do at the national box office, or with football non-fans, it certainly wants the local audience to feel that it understands more than football. It has tapped into the terrible socio-psychological condition known as Cleveland football.

*Here is where all this gets complicated. To see the set, I had to agree to embargo the story until sometime close to the premiere; same thing for the most part with set interviews done by Costner, Leary and director Ivan Reitman. (I was able to use part of the Costner interview when the subject turned to his music, because he was doing a local concert around that time.) I also agreed not to review the movie until near the premiere. When I went to the preview, I understood it to be covered by the embargo, only to find later that it fell into a gray area -- OK to describe in some way, but without reviewing the movie. Regular readers here know my distaste for embargoes, and this situation did nothing to change that. But neither do I want to reduce my feelings about the movie to a few phrases, so I am going to keep my opinion buttoned up for now, along with the details of that set visit.

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