On any given Sunday during football season living rooms across America are filled with cheering men, with their beers in hand and their eyes glued to a TV screen. These men sit glued to their TV sets watching warriors. What happens on the field is pure; it’s the game of football. What happens before, during, and after the game off field, well that’s business and the aim of Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday is to show what this business is.
Any Given Sunday is an ensemble film, but the three lead roles go to Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, and Cameron Diaz. Pacino is the head coach of the football team. Foxx is the puking new quarterback of the team. And Diaz is the former-owner’s daughter who has taken over the franchise. The conflicts are a bound in this film. Pacino’s Coach D’Amato and Foxx’s Beaman fight it out over how to play the game. Beaman goes from third string quarterback all the way to first string after the aging star quarterback, Rooney (Dennis Quaid), is injured. Beaman is not quite a team player and doesn’t listen to the coach. D’Amato and Pagniacci (Diaz) are at each other’s throats also. D’Amato is losing his touch with his old school style of coaching and Pagniacci wants more for the coach including more wins.
Any Given Sunday is more of a movie about what happens off the field than what happens on the field. We can see this by the way the on field play is shot. The games are shot in a MTV style, which makes each and every hit look like a train hitting a car. The cuts are fast and furious and it makes the game look great though even if you tried you couldn’t even figure out what is happening on field. Cameras are placed everywhere and this visceral style puts the audience right on the field with the players. What is ironic is that the MTV style used for the football games is so well done that when Stone puts Beaman in an actual music video for the film it looks chintzy.
What happens off the field is engrossing and the film could have been cut maybe 15 to 20 minutes if the nicely shot but useless on field stuff was cut out. We see the locker room speeches, the politics of how a team is made viable. We see how players and coaches are just commodities. The game as it is played professionally is pure only on the field and even at that it is played for the money, as we see in LL Cool J’s character. Endorsements are what drive the players; money from wins is what drives the owners. It almost seems like there is no love for the game and Stone makes this quite clear. Stone is out to make a point and the point is that professional football, or any professional sport, is more about corporate earnings than it is about the love of playing the game.
All the actors in the film do well, but most of the ensemble cast is not given much to do. It can plainly be seen with the James Woods character who seems likes a fully developed character, but does not get enough time onscreen to develop. Pacino spends his time chewing scenery, which is fine, that’s his style. Diaz is good. But, the big surprise was Jaime Foxx. He plays his role perfect. He knows when to be cocky, he knows when to be repentant. Foxx is perfect in this film. I hope he ventures out and does more roles like this. Kudos to Foxx for a perfect performance.
I’ll admit now that I’m not a huge fan of Oliver Stone. There is just something about the films that he makes that turns me off, perhaps it is the way he tries to shove a message down the audience’s throats with each and every of his films. I don’t know. But, with Any Given Sunday I was enthralled and entertained. This film is highly entertaining and well deserves the Don’t Miss endorsement.
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