Are You Ready?
by Dennis Campbell
The 2018 NFL season is almost upon us. You can feel it in the changing weather, as the warm summer air turns a bit cooler, and the leaves start to change, but also as the excitement mounts for an inevitable Super Bowl run for someone’s favorite team. Given the time of the year, and that our library system lies just 16.3 miles from the home of the Cleveland Browns, Firstenergy Stadium, I felt that there would be no time like the present to look back on the long and storied history of the Cleveland Browns in cinema.
Though the team and its former players have starred in several films over the years, I will limit this list to the following criteria: One, it must be a mainstream release. Two, it must be at least partially about the team. As such, classics like the Dirty Dozen will not be included as it only features a player from the team, even if that player is Jim Brown.
1.) The Express (2008)
Based off of the Robert Gallagher biography titled, Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express, this film follows the tragic story of Ernie Davis, the promising running back who was the heir to Jim Brown, but due to Leukemia never played a single down in the NFL. The film stars Rob Brown as Davis, who makes his way through the tumultuous, racially charged 1940s in Pennsylvania. He shows great promise all throughout college, earning the Heisman trophy and becoming an All-American. There are dedicated and well-acted performances all around. Continuing with the performance of Ernie Davis’ grandfather, Willie ‘Pops’ Davis (Charles Dutton) who educates Davis and is his rock throughout the film. Though the Express was released to critical acclaim, it only grossed $9.8 million against a $40 million budget, despite being a box office bomb, it is still a terrific and overlooked movie. This is because it is not just a football movie, but also one about perseverance, loss and family.
2.) Draft Day (2014)
This film if very well-made, possibly the second best example of how to make a film on this list. While the Express made is number one on this list, I can point to a few flaws in how that film was made, specifically the pacing. Draft Day, however, is first and foremost a well-made film. It stars Kevin Costner as the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns on, as you might suspect, the day of the NFL Draft. One thing about this film is that you really need to be a sports fan to enjoy it, to understand why there is tension at certain points. As an example, much like in real life, the Cleveland Browns are starving for a quarterback in this film. Tension rises as Costner is pressured into selecting a quarterback, but doesn’t. After that, his intelligence as a character is shown. Another aspect that makes this film enjoyable is all the cameos by current and former players. The film lives or dies by the performance of Costner, and while this is not one of his more memorable roles, it is still one that is worth watching.
3.) The Fortune Cookie (1966)
The Fortune Cookie is your classic, Black Comedy that features the immortal Jack Lemmon as Harry Hinkle, a CBS camera man who is injured by a Cleveland Browns player, Luther ‘Boom Boom’ Jackson, played by Ron Rich, in his debut role. Lemmon is convinced by his brother to exaggerate his injuries in the hopes of receiving a large settlement from an insurance firm, which could possible win back the affection of Lemmon’s estranged wife, Sandy (Judi West). This is a very smart film, with the characters on both sides constantly out witting each other. It is obvious from the start that the injuries are an exaggeration, as only one of the appointed doctors from the firm conclude they are genuine. In response to these claims, Lemmon opens up a charity foundation which will receive all the benefits of the settlement. The claim goes back and forth until reaching its ultimate conclusion that keeps people guessing until the very end.
There you have it, three films which I feel are worth checking out that best represent the Cleveland Browns as an organization. As I said earlier, there are several more, but these I feel are the best.
Until next time.