Click on the poster for the theatrical trailer.
Yes, you DID read that headline correctly... Kevin Costner is the ULTIMATE Hollywood leading man.

For far too long now, I have been on the receiving end of an incessant line of abuse when I put forward this plain and simple fact. In truth, I am sure some of you have decided that the water in the UK must be seriously polluted to cause this way of thinking and are opening another web page to look for something else to waste your time for a few minutes. But if you will bear with me, perhaps I will be able to prove to some of you that this severely underrated actor is worthy of re-appraisal and appreciation.

Picture"I just want to manage the team that I want... One time..."
Why would I be writing about this now? Well it came from a quick perusal in the local DVD store. My real reason for being there was to pick up a little something for the missus (copy of Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys... Check), but who should catch my eye but the sharp-suited individual above. In that exact moment, I was filled with both joy and anger at the same time. Ivan Reitman's Draft Day was a film I had been looking forward to last year after seeing the trailer online. A good old-fashioned sports drama with my boy Costner at the helm as Sonny Weaver Jr., General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, who must tackle the demands of the fans, his boss and the players as the clock counts down the 2014 NFL Draft - possibly the most important draft day in his career. Having made a costly trade for 1st Pick, Sonny finds the professional pressures complicated even further by the recent loss of his father and the news that his colleague and secret lover, played by Jennifer Garner, is pregnant with his child (nice work, Kev!). Even that plot description should get your mouth watering - Costner back in Sports Hero mold, high-stakes boardroom drama, dealing, double-dealing, knocking up ladies and holding the careers of so many young hopefuls in his hands. Yet here it is... On a DVD shelf and not on a British cinema screen. The indignity of it all. But then again, I've been fighting Costner's corner for longer than I care to remember..

Picture"I would die for you..."
The first time I saw the great Kevin Michael Costner on hate big screen was in a childhood classic for many of my peers... 1991's swashbuckling epic Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Who was this dashing, heroic, debonair hero, shooting 2 arrows at the same time and sporting the finest mullet this side of Mel Gibson? I loved that movie - every time I hear Bryan Adams' mighty ballad I pump my fists in the air in emotional bombast. This was a Robin Hood for my generation (pity poor Patrick Bergin, whose alternative take in the same year disappeared in Kevin's wake). Yes, I get it - for a homegrown hero like Robin Hood, Kev doesn't even attempt a British accent. But then again maybe that was a good thing - Russell Crowe's Midlands-via-Adelaide accent in Ridley Scott's recent take on the historical hoodie went down as well as getting a flaming arrow in the face. And this Robin went to war with an odious S.O.W. (Son Of a Witch) that called of Christmas... AND WON! No late-in-the-show appearance from James Bond could sway my attention. Here was a fantastic hero - and soon I was discovering that this guy wasn't just great with a bow... He was classy with a six-shooter too!

Picture"I got no problem with killing, Boss. Never Have."
Costner's real break had come in the Laurence Kasden quick-draw Western homage Silverado - the next film I saw him in. Here, among seasoned pros like Scott Glenn, Kevin Kline, Danny Glover and Brian Dennehy, it was young Kev as the wise-ads kid with the deadly aim that stole the whole movie right from under them. Costner soon became the best Western hero since Eastwood (it is easy to see why it is his favorite genre), with epic performances in classic takes on the genre such as Kasden's Wyatt Earp and his own passion-project masterpiece Dances With Wolves. He also turned in excellent work in pseudo-Westerns such as crime flick The Untouchables (watch it again - it wears the clothes of The Godfather but has the heart of High Noon!) and Eastwood's modern day crime thriller A Perfect World. He has recently won acclaim and plaudits (more of that later) on the small screen in Western mini-series Hatfields & McCoys. But my personal favorite is Costner's 2003 film Open Range, where Costner and Robert Duvall take on Michael Gambon and his villainous ranchers in one of the greatest showdown's in Hollywood history. Costner plays a little against type here as a loner cattleman with a violent past he is trying to forget. But when push comes to shove, this guy is not someone to cross... just the way Kevin instigated the final shootout deserves some kind of bad-ass award. The film is loaded with simmering tension that spills into gritty, blood-splattered violence - and I will always put this film forward as a prime exhibit of Costner's greatness.

Oh, and did you know he's in a country band called Kevin Costner and Modern West? You can't get more cowboy than that! 

"Famous for Killing Each Other"
Picture"If you build it, they will come..."
And then there was the sports movie - a genre of movie that usually bring out the praise and admiration that critics tend to forget with all the other genres, when looking back at Costner's career so far. Take the world-weary veteran Crash Davis in Bull Durham. A character with such easy-going charm that it was hard to fathom that this was the same guy that brought us the straight-laced Elliot Ness - the explosive heat between Kevin and Susan Sarandon was thermo-nuclear in intensity. Baseball would prove to be a familiar stomping ground for our Kev (he even owned his own team for a while) - his character in The Upside of Anger was a former pro baseball player, while For Love of the Game (a film I love to torture the wife with) saw Costner bring a poignancy and humility to his baseball lifer at the end of his career. And then there is Field of Dreams... Usually to be found on everyone's Favorite Films of All Time lists. Phil Alden Robinson's fairy tale for men never fails to bring a tear to even the most red necked of alpha males - this writer included. But it's not just baseball that Costner was a pro at - his driving range slacker in Ron Shelton's Tin Cup relied on that country-boy charisma channeled in their previous collaboration Bull Durham, winning over Rene Russo's disapproving psychiatrist as well as the stuffy green jackets at the US Open. And now Costner has added pro football to the mix with Draft Day. And just as the tag line says, the greatest victories are not always on the field.

Now I can already hear you muttering to yourselves. And yes it is quite obvious that a severe man crush is an easy diagnosis for this outpouring of Costner-love. Don't think I have turned a blind eye to the less savory of Kevin's ouvre - I am just able to seek out the good stuff from the reams of dross surrounding it. OK, so The Bodyguard may have got some attention at the box office, but it was clear that Costner and Whitney Houston had zero chemistry (though the fact that Houston's character wins the Best Actress Oscar was probably the biggest hurdle audiences had to overcome). But some of the set-pieces still hold up, with a special mention to the lakeside cabin shootout as our hero pursues a would-be assassin - the closed-eyes marksmanship in the woods is just so cool! Box office disappointment Waterworld may have just been a simple Mad Max on jetskis, but the thrills are positively buzzing - the Smokers' attack on the atoll and the ensuing tri-maran pursuits are some of the finest stunt work and action put on recent film. And then there is the bloated vanity project The Postman...

OK, that is one I can't rescue.

But regardless, I hope I have given you enough evidence for a re-evaluation of this fine actor and his body of work. When someone says Dragonfly, you say Thirteen Days... When they yell Message in a Bottle, you retort Mr. Brooks... And if they dare mention Rumor Has it..., we all scream NO WAY OUT!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my #1 draft pick of Hollywood... And if you don't like it, well... You guys can have Dane Cook instead.

"Then it begins!"