Any Given Sunday
Rating -

Drama (US); 1999; Rated R; 162 Minutes

Al Pacino: Tony D'Amato
Dennis Quaid: Jack "Cap" Rooney
James Woods: Dr. Harvey Mandrake
Ann-Margret: Margaret Pagniacci
Todd Bacile: Sideline Sound Tech
Bill Bellamy: Jimmy Sanderson #88
Elizabeth Berkley: Mandy

Produced by Dan Halsted, Lauren Shuler Donner, Oliver Stone and Clayton Townsend; Directed by Oliver Stone; Screenwritten by John Logan and Oliver Stone; based on the novel by Pat Toomay

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Any Given Sunday" chooses football as its sport backbone, and maybe rightfully so, because much like the game it chooses to dramatize, players bend or break rules and don't seem to care, just as long as they finish ahead of the others. The fact alone that that the deafening material even tries to play as a drama inflames me; here is a movie of laughably bad proportions, shot with extensive graininess, directed at an unforgivably slow pace, and glorified by a sport that may very well be duller than the O.J. Simpson trial. Oh, and there's even a marvelous cast behind the production, adding insult to injury to our already-stupefied minds. It's bad enough that the movie is loud and obnoxious; must it also waste hordes of talent on a script that manages to use every sport cliché known in the movies?

Boy is this thing horrible; "Any Given Sunday" is a lame, irritating, stupid and relentless endeavor with absolutely no one we can care about, much less find amusing. It tells of Pro football's behind-the-scenes glamour, in which the team of Miami Sharks is cheered on by fans on field, but badgered by coaches and managers inside locker rooms, who scream at and irritate each other like members of the two households in "American Beauty." But whereas those arguments had points, the characters in this wallowing mess get agitated for all the wrong reasons--petty arguments, like one that goes on between the coach (Al Pacino) and the owner (Cameron Diaz), grow tired and stale practically in the first scene they are introduced. A more interesting movie would have chosen either the players or those behind-the-scene people to focus on, but the movie cannot even make up its mind what direction to go in, and instead threads them (conflicts on one side interfere with those on the other on more than one occasion).

Which brings us to the implausible imagery. The cinematographer's style of on-field action, shot with hand-held cameras and deafening pounds in the soundtrack, creates some of the most chaotic photography seen in a film all year. It's impossible to clearly understand what's going on when players prepare to make their move, the shot changes to a worse angle, and then returns to the previous location about two seconds too late to see the actions clearly. In most respects, the picture may very well be the cinematic equivalent of taking a video camera and letting big football players toss it around more than their inflated tool. Furthermore, the players who crash into each other on field grunt, scream, yell, and shout out every cuss word known to mankind, suggesting that the scripted dialogue has been written with a lack of intelligence and innovation; the movie may very well be the first to match "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" in profanity.

Stone's story tells of a fictional Miami team named the Dolphins, who can hopefully become the year's champions--that is, if they can ditch their middle-aged quarterback (Dennis Quaid) for a newly-discovered football star (Jaime Foxx). Worrying more about winning than honoring an old hero, however, the movie discards that story for the source of the football game's obsessive party; in this case, we're referring to Al Pacino as the Miami Sharks coach. His life has been devoted to the game, and, in order for his team to reach their goals, he has to push them hard enough (which isn't easy, since the season is already off to a bad start). Multiple subplots erupt from this underlying premise; football players' wives become alcoholics, fights between players break out, and tensions between coaches and owners escalate. Then there's a big football game towards the end, which reaches into the sports film knapsack and pulls out all the predictable twists necessary to wrap up the production with that sappy, routine studio ending. At least in those movies, the cinematography was able to sustain a decent demonstration of a sports game.

Is there any indication here that director Oliver Stone wanted another Oscar rival on his hands with this project? The fact that it is being released in the midst of several Academy Award contenders is reason enough; his use of dramatic and photographic overkill are so frustrating that, even if the film had a distinct script, there would be no way to tell exactly, or care, what was going on. But most of his past directorial efforts work (his "Natural Born Killers," for instance, had just the right tone to take us into the heads of two media-glorified murderers); this type of stuff is so pretentious and overdone that not even a fan of football can find much to appreciate. Stone is a solid director and will undoubtedly make greater movies in the future; this time, someone should have pulled him from the lineup.

© 1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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