Monday, July 28, 2014

Costner’s Arms Caused Draft Day Harm

According to the Web site Box Office Mojo, as of June 18, 2014, the Kevin Costner film Draft Day grossed $29.4 million worldwide. Against a budget of $25 million, this constitutes a major disappointment for Lions Gate Entertainment.

I was not among the few who forked over money to see a film that, seemingly, only a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth football fanatic given a free bucket of Milk Duds could tolerate. However, it’s clear that, apart from the insipid drama of the behind-the-scenes string-pulling that occurs on the NFL’s most crucial day of the off-season, the prime reason why Draft Day failed at the box office is Costner’s glaringly obvious lack of range as an actor.

I mean, compare his performance in Draft Day (above) to some of his major roles over the last quarter-century. Clockwise from upper left, in Field of Dreams, JFK, Wyatt Earp, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and A Perfect World, Costner’s standard acting technique remains unchanged. It matters not whether he’s portraying a historical figure such as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison or Old West lawman Wyatt Earp, or if Costner’s role is a completely fictional character—he has not altered that cool, calm, arms-crossed stance that so defines his image across the decades.

Sure, arm-crossing is called for in some roles—but to keep drawing from that well for one’s entire career is to sabotage that career by desensitizing the audience. “We no longer care that he’s acting casually confident—he’s done it,” filmgoers clearly said by staying away from Draft Day in droves. Do we really need more proof of the potential of arms on the screen than Molly Shannon in Episode 156 of Seinfeld, “The Summer of George”? Letting her arms “hang like salamis” as she “lurches around like a caveman” led to interoffice chaos.

And the less said how disastrous is Raquel Welch’s lack of arm movement in that episode, the better…
Okay, said arm-swinging led to a pair of arousing catfights involving Elaine…but who wants to see Kevin Costner in a catfight, even if it were to produce the drama Draft Day so sorely missed?

The bottom line is that arms = conflict. Can you imagine the bore-fest Raging Bull would have been had DeNiro stood scene after scene in the ring with his arms crossed? You can’t throw the title and pathetically destroy your career and reputation if you don’t first move your arms to punch and win the title...

Perhaps I’m being too harsh on Costner. He could well be an unknowing victim of Hollywood typecasting, selected for these roles solely because of his experience and proficiency in characters that cross their arms—not unlike Marlon Brando, whose outstanding ability to ooze psychotic torment by grabbing his skull landed him many a classic role.

So I suppose I’ll cut Costner some slack and give him until Draft Day II: I Can’t Believe They Green-Lighted This One Also to sort himself out…

(Image from Draft Day copyright Summit Entertainment Lions Gate; image from Field of Dreams copyright Universal Pictures; images from JFK, Wyatt Earp, and A Streetcar Named Desire copyright Warner Brothers; image from Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit copyright Paramount Pictures; image from A Perfect World copyright Malpaso Productions; image from Apocalypse Now copyright Zoetrope Studios.)

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