Eye For Film >> Movies >> Any Given Sunday (1999) Film Review
Any Given Sunday
Reviewed by: Stephen Carty
Near the end of a losing season, legendary coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) loses his star quarterback, Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid), and both replacements through injury. Surprisingly, the third-choice and virtually unknown Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), turns out to be a major talent whose popularity skyrockets overnight and it isn’t long before the fame goes to his head. With the club being ripped apart by Willie’s attitude, D’Amato tries to hold things together while ice-cold owner, Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), breathes down his neck.
Sports movies are not a rarity in Hollywood. However, while this category has brought us memorable classics like Rocky and The Natural, it has also spawned instantly forgettable tripe such as Future Sport or the 2002 remake of Rollerball. Indeed, seeing as nearly every entry in the genre has the team/hero overcoming adversity to win against all odds at the final moment (cue the big cheer), it has become increasingly difficult to craft one with an original approach.
So, the question presents itself: How do you make a sports movie that’ll stand out? Well if you’re Oliver Stone, you take a modern look at the game involved, you assemble a top-flight cast and you go into complete overdrive with the visuals (and then throw in all the clichés at the last minute). Though a must-see for Gridiron fans, it’s a bonus that you don’t need to know what a pass-rush is to enjoy Pacino and co shouting about gaining inches (not that kind, you filthy minds).
In terms of its portrayal of American football, Any Given Sunday is engaging and the insights provided seem realistic (my friend in the know assures me it is). Taking us inside this world, Stone renders an interesting tapestry where alpha-males play for money instead of love, aches automatically necessitate demands for Vicodin and coaches bark orders like, “I don’t get strokes motherf**ker! I give them”.
Strangely, this effective approach is replaced in the final third by more of a ‘typical sports movie’. While this doesn’t make the movie suddenly unwatchable, it is slightly at odds with what has gone before and leaves the audience confused about what sort of movie Stone was trying to make. While the more cynical viewers will appreciate the over-the-top expose the way greed, TV and money have ruined the purity of the sport, the more idealistic audience members will probably enjoy the final-stretch where a rousing speech, big comeback and a last-gasp-win fufill Stone’s romantic side. Hey, I didn’t know he had one either.
In terms of the aforementioned visual onslaught, this is Stone completely letting loose and firing on all camera-panning cylinders. Pulling out every gun in his arsenal, we are hit with multiple shots from above, the obligatory player silhouettes in the rain, constant fades and it is rare that an entire scene goes by without being interrupted with a flash or cut to another moment from the movie. It might be a bit much at times but this drags you into the game to the point at which you’ll be checking to see if you’re jock strap is secure.
Playing roles that mirror their acting careers, Foxx is the talented up-and-coming star and Pacino is past-his-best much-respected veteran. Though Foxx is very entertaining as ‘Steamin’ Willie Beamen (he does a damn good impersonation of Pacino), it’s the former Godfather who steals the show. Though constantly surrounded by guys at least two feet taller and about six stone heavier, Pacino demands our attention with a balance of instantaneous ferocity and subdued world-weariness.
As for the rest of the cast, there is so much talent on show that the DVD boxes and advertising posters struggle to fit in all the recognisable faces. While the ensemble doesn’t have a bad turn, John McGinley is a stand-out as the cigar-chomping know-it-all sports analyst and James Woods makes his small part a memorable one (including a great one-on-one with Pacino) by just being ‘James Woods’. Also, Lawrence Taylor and Jim Brown – widely regarded as the best linebacker and greatest player in the NFL respectively – make seamless transitions to the big screen as Luther ‘Shark’ Lavay and fiery coach Monroe.
Overall, while Any Given Sunday doesn’t make it to the much sought-after list of classic sports movies, it’s a decent motion picture. It might not have you running up city steps in grey jogging bottoms but Oliver Stone’s latest certainly doesn’t fumble the ambitious pass that it aspires to.Reviewed on: 22 Nov 2008