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9 reviews, 72 user ratings

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Any Given Sunday
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by Andrew Howe

"Stone does Mozart - 'Too many characters'"
3 stars

When it comes to take-no-prisoners filmmaking, Stone and Scorsese practically define the term. Each has a nose for hard-hitting, gut-punch scripts, and they infuse the subject matter with a visual flair which is distinctly their own. Neither has felt the need to branch out into other genres, which is doubtless because, to paraphrase Max Fischer from Rushmore, they've found something they love to do and plan to do it for the rest of their lives.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Stone's latest effort is (a) a drama; (b) a showcase for a number of fine dramatic actors; and (c) an opportunity for the director to remind us that he is not a silent partner to the proceedings. Given these facts, it should also be no surprise that, at its best, Any Given Sunday is very good indeed. Unfortunately, the whole is less than the sum of the parts, and that's primarily because it's a four-hour film compressed into 150 minutes.

The script seems determined to earn itself a listing in the Oxford Dictionary under the word "conflict", since there's nary a character who isn't at odds with their opposite number. Al Pacino plays Tony D'Amato, the ageing coach of the Miami Sharks gridiron team. He rose to the top in the days when the game was the thing, but now he's harangued on a daily basis by newly-appointed team owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), whose sole interest is the dollar value of the team. Orbiting around this unhappy duo are a group of supporting players who are, if anything, even less content. There's Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), an up-and-coming quarterback who winds up butting heads with his girlfriend, the player he's replacing (Jack Rooney, played by Dennis Quaid), and the entire Sharks line-up. Then there's Harvey Mandrake and Allie Powers (James Woods and Matthew Modine), team doctors with wildly divergent views on the meaning of player welfare. And let's not forget the assistant coach, Quaid's wife, a high-profile sports reporter and the rest of the team, all of whom seem to be digging themselves deeper into whichever hole they've chosen to call their own, and would like nothing better than to drag everyone else down there with them. The team's losing streak is a metaphor for the lives of the individuals affected by its performance, and you get the feeling that there won't be any last-minute victories anytime soon.

There's certainly a great deal going on, and this is the film's greatest flaw - there's simply not enough time to give every sub-plot the attention it deserves. Most of the characters are like extras from a Shakespearean play: they come into focus, say their piece, and return from whence they came. This style of scripting is reminiscent of Stone's JFK, but that film had a strong central storyline to keep it on track. Any Given Sunday, on the other hand, is a film about people, since the plot is not strong enough to carry the film on its own (the backing story is the old "will the team make it to the play-off's?" chestnut, but their supposed underdog status is never sufficiently telegraphed to raise any real excitement).

Despite its status as a potential character study, the script never seems sure whose story it wants to tell. Is it about a coach trying to hold his team together in an age of seven-figure salaries? Perhaps, but maybe it's about a daughter taking revenge on her dead father for lavishing his love and affection on the team instead of her. Then again, it could be about an over-the-hill quarterback coming to terms with the sorrow of fading glory, or even a rising star learning to deal with overnight success.

It is, in fact, about all of these things, but none of the characters are explored in enough depth to make good on the script's promises. A prime example is the team doctor subplot - given that the roles are played by two relatively well-known actors, we could be forgiven for assuming that they will have a significant part to play in the proceedings. We would, however, be so very wrong, because their combined screen time amounts to approximately five minutes. They exist solely to make a point, and at no time do we feel that we know these people. Then there's Rooney, a character who holds a great deal of appeal but is left on the sidelines (literally and symbolically) for the majority of the film. I would have loved to see the script explore his relationship with his wife, but by the time we realise that everything is not as it seems it's too late to do anything about it.

To make matters worse, the sheer number of supporting characters ensures that even Tony and Christina, the nominal protagonists, come across as somewhat underwritten. However, I should make it clear that the scriptwriters do their best within the time constraints - the script is littered with small moments which speak volumes about the characters (Pacino's late-night call to his ex-wife, Diaz's moment of weakness when she knows she's alone, and many others). It's simply not enough to provide the viewer with the emotional investment the film needs to succeed, leaving us with a powerful but ultimately hollow spectacle.

My disappointment at this state of affairs is exacerbated by the fact that, in all other respects, the film is a qualified success. We can take the acting of the majority of the major players for granted - Pacino is Pacino, which is never a bad thing, and Diaz proved her mettle at dramatic roles with Very Bad Things. - while Quaid is as likeable as ever. I am also pleased to report that relative newcomer Jamie Foxx excels at portraying the many sides of Beamen - he is, at turns, arrogant, childish and vulnerable - and I would not be surprised if his star continues to rise in the not-so-distant future.

On the other side of the camera Stone cuts loose with another visual free-for-all, and at times it's positively mesmerising. To say I am not a fan of American Football is an understatement, but the on-field action has more in common with Gladiator than a Sunday night sports-wrap. Close-up's of heaving, muscular behemoths, earth-shattering tackles and baying crowds lend an almost-mythic quality to the action, and the film is worth catching for the sheer visceral power of these moments alone.

Elsewhere Stone is up to his usual tricks (juxtaposing video footage with "real-life" action, a dose of heavy-handed symbolism in the form of excerpts from Ben-Hur's chariot race), and while it certainly maintains the interest it can prove a little distracting when used at inappropriate junctures. One sequence between Pacino and Diaz sees Stone change the camera angle after every sentence, ensuring that any emotional impact the scene might have possessed is lost amidst the disorientating shifts in perspective. There's also a brief detour into gratuitous violence (you'll know what I'm talking about when you see it), which is positively sickening and at odds with the general tone of the film. It's a hit-and-miss effort, and if someone had reminded Stone that he wasn't directing Natural Born Killers II the film would probably have been the better for it.

Stone's ear for appropriate accompaniment hasn't deserted him, however - the film features a sterling soundtrack, perfectly matched to the on-screen action. If someone had told me that they were planning to use the likes of Moby to back a high-powered drama I would have had them committed, but it's testament to Stone's wisdom that the well-chosen tracks enhance the visuals in ways I would have never thought possible.

Any Given Sunday is the perfect film for anyone in search of transient thrills, for it combines arresting visuals with fine acting and a script which features few dull moments. The poorly-developed characters ensure you won't be savouring the memory for weeks to come, but it's big, loud and, while it's happening, suitably involving. The day has not yet come when a Stone film is entirely unworthy of our attention, and if the gods are kind it never will.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1853&reviewer=193
originally posted: 10/21/00 22:26:09
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell watchable 3 stars
8/22/10 Matt Brilliant movie - too bad the real sport is nowhere near as enjoyable over 3.5 hours! 5 stars
7/09/10 rosemary I think it was a pretty good movie. that one black guy was big wow 4 stars
4/14/10 Jerome Cook some of us like this new look at football. fuck major league that movie was weak. 5 stars
9/23/09 brian LT makes it worth seeing. 4 stars
9/02/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting storyline. 4 stars
7/26/08 The Dork Knight i'm pretty sure eyeballs don't litter football fields in real life 2 stars
2/22/08 Pamela White makes more of football than it really is 3 stars
10/28/07 Geoff Chapman Pretty decent. By the book sports movie, but still well done. 4 stars
2/12/07 johnnyfog Stone's acid trip version of football. 2 stars
9/25/04 NJ Cup Winner 95-00-03 The only Stone movie I have no use for..nice locker room scene tho 2 stars
3/08/04 Charles Tatum Nice to see Stone return to normal film making again (after the crappy "Nixon") 4 stars
8/15/03 Paul It was great 5 stars
8/12/03 3man It was okay but really have to like football to enjoy this. 3 stars
8/09/03 Nicole I was so excited to see this movie.....and very disappointed once I finally did. 2 stars
4/25/03 GMan Pompous arrogant shit, fuck diaz and pacino, and especially E-Funk for liking this tripe 1 stars
2/21/03 Dreamer nice movie... coulda been better 4 stars
1/22/03 Pinkline Jones Pacino Ought to know Better - Lost eyeballs and Vomit - Terrific! 2 stars
11/23/02 mack back 5 stars
8/26/02 john c. smith i loved it 5 stars
7/04/02 KMG SUCKS: It was mean-spirited, foul, loud, obnoxious, and had bitchy wives in it 1 stars
3/24/02 Veronica Foxx aka The Raven-Haired Temptress Laughable piece of trash. Just a lame ass attempt at "entertainment". Couldn't watch it all 1 stars
2/28/02 Tiffany Thunderhurst Impressive cast is fumbled. Also too much time in the muddle. 1 stars
9/16/01 Bri Yuck, Yuck, dicks, Yuck!!! 1 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk The best football movie ever! Brutally honest, and that's what pisses people off! 5 stars
8/06/01 Law Firm of Dewey, Cheatam & Howe Only reason its not TOTAL CRAP is the presence of the legendary Ann-Margret 2 stars
8/05/01 badfish What a bland piece of poop this was,not even the soundtrack could save this one. 1 stars
7/26/01 TLsmooth Pacino's locker room speech saved this one from ass-sucking. 2 stars
6/24/01 Monster W. Kung Nothing special. Not horrible, but I wouldn't pay to watch it again, that's for sure. 3 stars
6/09/01 CriticGirl Decent movie, but too long. Should have been made tighter. 3 stars
5/05/01 Subjective Man Stone's self indulgence overtakes the film 3 stars
4/29/01 Mitja Podgajski I love it.. .i love Cameron... ! 5 stars
4/03/01 Boy In The Designer Bubble I liked the black guy with the big willie!!! 3 stars
3/28/01 zippernek Cameron Diaz as a hard-nosed business person? hahahahahahaha 3 stars
3/27/01 Jun 170 minutes of fragmented stories that go nowhere. 1 stars
2/12/01 CJ O' Callaghan very good start, but gets a bit boring towards the end, still a very nice piece of work! 4 stars
1/20/01 dog all that matters is Al Pacino is in it. 4 stars
1/08/01 Elvisfan Same old same old from Ollie - JFK in a jock, Platoon in shoulderpads 2 stars
10/26/00 JC23 Doesn't rank as high as Stone's other effort's but entertaining nontheless 4 stars
10/26/00 Bender Its like a cross between Showgirls and North Dallas forty. 4 stars
10/23/00 Monday Morning Glossy, hi-quality filmmaking, always something to see. Music & Al's "inch" speech both A-1 4 stars
9/24/00 malcolm most real-looking sports aciton i've seen in a film. 4 stars
9/13/00 Hmm Plays better on video than it did in theaters 4 stars
9/07/00 The Bomb 69 this movie was all over the place 3 stars
9/06/00 Duaneadam Line you TV room with newspaper before viewing 1 stars
9/06/00 Chris Drake Dreadful but good!Music alas mostly weak;Pacino's 1/2time speech great;loved final comment 4 stars
8/15/00 Drew Vogel Don't believe the naysayers, this rocks 5 stars
7/31/00 Chen Kenichi See the English version, "When Saturday Comes" -- much better 2 stars
7/31/00 Mr J M HARWOOD Seriously one of the best movies i have ever seen 5 stars
7/27/00 matthew smith oliver stone at his hard hitting best 5 stars
5/26/00 Jaime N. Christley Loved NBK. Loved JFK. Hated this monstrosity. 1 stars
5/25/00 Bruce The editing made me nauseous 2 stars
4/16/00 punkass The football scenes are fantastic, and although there are cliches it does alright 3 stars
3/05/00 Kyle Broflovski Oliver Stone, FUCK YOURSELF!! You try to be profound & come off looking like a TRUE IDIOT! 1 stars
2/04/00 Heather Complete crap! 1 stars
1/30/00 Chet Patel This movie kicked ass, I'm glad this was the last movie I saw before New Years. 5 stars
1/23/00 majawat pffft 3 stars
1/04/00 adz' roomate lion it was like a 2 1/2 hour rap video 2 stars
1/02/00 SJKelley All production values, no script. Pacino, yes. Diaz, NO! Woods, what?! Quaid, snore. 2 stars
1/02/00 goodatty The movie showed football (life?) has many different stories going on at the same time. 4 stars
12/31/99 sexychick Puhleeze!!THis movie blows big balls!! 1 stars
12/31/99 bullit17 Subtle as an A-bomb. Stone screws up what could have been a decent (if cliche) story 2 stars
12/30/99 Tom I saw it and survey says, "It's a renter!" 2 stars
12/30/99 Harvey Richardson In Albany, the whole thearte left before the film ended, it was soooooooooo horid!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
12/30/99 Damian Lackey I can't describe how horrid this film was! I hated hated hated it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
12/28/99 inigma oh oh! please shot Cameron for her portral of the wwf "stephine" character in this movie! 1 stars
12/26/99 jenn "Blu Smrf" alright, can we say noisy? i walked out with and headache, but that was from the writing!!! 1 stars
12/25/99 Fortune Oliver Stone masturbates all over the screen on this one. That jackass. 1 stars
12/24/99 SteelyTrip Great acting, but the script is complete and utter testosterone- soaked shit. 2 stars
12/23/99 craig a. decent film, too much oliver stone symbolism 4 stars
12/22/99 Downtown Willie Browne Fuckin' amazing. Super acting, writing, cinematography, etc. Great use of Stone's insanity 5 stars
12/19/99 tpmedia This film explodes on the screen. 5 stars
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  22-Dec-1999 (R)



Directed by
  Oliver Stone

Written by
  John Logan

  Al Pacino
  Dennis Quaid
  Cameron Diaz
  LL Cool J
  Jamie Foxx
  James Woods
  Matthew Modine

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