Any Given Sunday


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Any Given Sunday

Games are notoriously tricky on screen, perhaps because what is happening out there makes no sense compared to saving a child's life or building the Taj Mahal, and the intensity surrounding them is out of all proportion to their intrinsic value.

Oliver Stone hits on that intensity. He hits on the money, fame, sex and politics as well. What American football seems to be in the mind of this writer/director, who caused a tidal wave of controversy with JFK and Natural Born Killers and was the first to expose the Vietnam war as a John-Wayne-free zone in Platoon, is gladiatorial. He includes snippets of Ben Hur to press the point home and has Charlton Heston appear briefly as a tough, yet charming state governor.

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After a run of boring, bad movies (Heaven And Earth, U-Turn) and personal problems (drugs bust, marital breakdown), it looked as if Stone had sunk. Any Given Sunday - who thinks up these titles? - brings him back with a vengeance.

The plot may have the tread marks of seasoned clich© ("See it before you do it") and the spirit of a lost age ("This game has got to be more than winning"), but Stone shoots with the energy of a 24-year-old pop vidmeister who mainlines adrenaline into every quickfire edit.

The result is about as far from Chariots Of Fire as you can get. It ruptures every convention of the well-mannered jock flick and tears at the meaning of why men behave like animals when dressed for mortal combat. It teaches you zilch about the game. No matter. The images are so powerful and the pace so fast, there's hardly time to catch your breath.

Performances match cinematic daring. Al Pacino, as the ageing coach of the Florida Sharks, has conviction tattooed on his heart. Cameron Diaz, as the daughter of the team's late owner - "I honestly believe that woman would eat her young," Governor Heston remarks - conveys commercial ruthlessness with a veneer of insecurity.

James Woods, as the physio who injects cynicism into medical ethics, roleplays like a gambler on a lucky streak, while, by contrast, ex-football star, Jim Brown ("Losing is dying"), has an authenticity that shines.

Jamie Foxx, as the rookie quarterback, who becomes the next black thing, is astonishing, although Dennis Quaid, as the one-time king of the pack, is less convincing.

Add flashy enthusiasm, coupled with an audacity that treats slo-mo like addiction and violence as an art form, and Stone's resurrection ticket creates new precedents for visual excitement.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Any Given Sunday packshot
Oliver Stone takes a gladiatorial look at the world of American football.
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Read more Any Given Sunday reviews:

Stephen Carty ***1/2

Director: Oliver Stone

Writer: John Logan, Oliver Stone

Starring: Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, Jim Brown, Ann-Margaret

Year: 1999

Runtime: 162 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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