Any Given Sunday

Any Given Sunday is Oliver Stone's take on football. As scary as that sounds, the movie is less about football and more about the people behind it. In particular, the movie focuses on the struggle between old (Al Pacino, James Woods, Dennis Quaid) and new (Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, Aaron Eckhart) methods of thinking in the game. The internal fighting threatens to rip the team apart in an otherwise very conventional sports movie written by John Logan (Gladiator, RKO 281). The Sharks begin as the underdogs, and slowly work their way to the big game, which, gasp, is very, very close. Who will win? Duh.

Tony D'Amato (Pacino, Donnie Brasco, The Devil's Advocate) is the long-time coach of the Sharks, a team with a four game losing streak. The star quarterback Jack Rooney (Quaid, Savior, The Parent Trap) sustains an injury that forces him out of the game, letting third string quarterback Willie Beamen (Foxx, Booty Call, WB's The Jamie Foxx Show) finally get a chance to start. Beamen quickly begins ignoring the set plays by D'Amato and calling his own, and the team begins winning. D'Amato is furious, as is running back Julian Washington (LL Cool J, Deep Blue Sea, In Too Deep). Washington is concerned because with Beamen's plays, he is not getting what he needs to cash in bonuses in his endorsement contracts. Team owner Christina Pagniacci (Diaz, The Invisible Circus, Being John Malkovich) is ecstatic with Beamen's performance, and increasingly hostile towards D'Amato's attempts to rein in his power.

Tensions fray further as the season progresses. Beamen begins winning games for the Sharks, becoming a huge celebrity in the process. As his fame rises, his hostility towards D'Amato grows. His fame begins to go to his head, which also begins affecting the rest of the team dynamic. Any Given Sunday is made for the football fan with a short attention span. Every shot of the game is quick, jarring close-up, and a dream come true for foley artists. There are none of those nasty commercials or long periods of waiting, only quick spurts of bone crushing confrontation between big angry men. In addition, Jim Brown, Dick Butkus, Bob St. Clair, Lawrence Taylor, Warren Moon, Irving Fryar, Ricky Watters, and other football greats appear in the film. On a sadder note, the NFL declined to allow the use of any of their logos, resulting in the formation of the fictional AFFA, which includes teams like the Sharks, the Crusaders, the Knights, the Americans, the Rhinos, and other manly man names.

With so many stars, it is a shame that the most compelling stories are focused on the least. Pacino's constant overacting and long monologues overshadow all other performances, particularly Foxx and LL Cool J. Foxx, who is usually forgettable in lowbrow comedies, demonstrates that with the right material, he can actually act. Eckhart (Nurse Betty, Your Friends and Neighbors), Woods (The General's Daughter, True Crime) Lauren Holly, Lela Rochon, and Matthew Modine are all short-changed in their roles as supporting members of the extended Sharks family. So instead of watching how newfound fame affects relationships, the crumbling of careers, or the behind the scenes workings of a team, the same old story rears its ugly head, this time wrapped in fancy camera shots that mask the shortcomings of the film. The outcome of the film is never in doubt, it is just a matter of waiting a very long time for it to happen.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
2 hours, 45 minutes, Rated R for strong language and some nudity/sexuality.

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