A couple of years ago, my favourite director, Oliver Stone, and the world's
greatest actor, Al Pacino, were going to get together and make a movie about
Panamanian general Manuel Noriega. The project was shelved but it's not
like Stone and Pacino don't have a past. Stone wrote one of Pacino's best
parts, 1983's 'Scarface', directed by Brian DePalma. So when I heard that
my favourite actor and favourite director were gearing up to make a movie
about one of my favourite sports, pro football, it filled me with great
anticipation but the final cut is a muddled and badly edited slice of pure
Americana that uses its camera like an untamed animal, and in a running time
of nearly three hours, there could easily have been an hour cut from the
final product. 'Any Given Sunday' also stereotypes the very nature of pro
athletes, based on their bad behaviour and seduction by the big time.
The best movie ever made about the gridiron is still 1979's 'North Dallas
Forty' which showed the intimacies of the business, the sport, the players
and the effects of the game in a more calculating way than anything put
forward by 'Any Given Sunday'. Al Pacino stars as coach Tony D'Amato of the
pro football team the Miami Sharks. The Sharks are fighting to make the
playoffs and for the sake of profit, the prospect of a new stadium and
overall prestige. The team's unqualified owner (Cameron Diaz) makes a
mockery of something she doesn't understand...the bond between players and
coaches. She's a Cornell University educated business woman whose father
put her in charge of the team after his death through the conditions of his
will and doesn't know how to balance the tactics of her coaches and her
board of directors.
D'Amato's loyalty to the 39-year old washed up quarterback named Jack "Cap"
Rooney (Dennis Quaid) is blind. D'Amato refuses to accept the fact that
Rooney is washed up and can't mold the new flashy third string quarterback
Willie Beaman (Jamie Foxx) into his style of player. Beaman likes changing
the plays sent in by the coach, often vomits in the huddle before executing
a play and makes the cover of every major magazine and is more concerned
with celebrity than with the concept of being a team player. This
frustrates two of his most important team mates (LL Cool J and real former
NFL player Lawrence Taylor) and the team is thrown into chaos with in
fighting among the players. This film makes a very debatable point. Can
you hold the coach of a team responsible for the actions of his players and
the quality of his team's performance? Yes and no. A coach needs to
communicate with his players but it's difficult when you have a hands on
owner who also tries to run the show and the debate in pro sports in perhaps
hotter than any other form of human interaction.
Other notable characters are the team's head doctor (James Woods) and the
secondary intern waiting to take his place (Matthew Modine). Woods'
character goes along with each player's every desire...despite the fact that
their play could kill them based on an overdose of drugs or another hit
which could be tragic or fatal. He ignores the sacred oath doctors take for
the health of their patients while Modine's character is a by the book
physician. Ann-Margret is the mother of Diaz and misses her late husband
and can't relate to her daughter as being the team's leader from the
business end of things. Lauren Holly is Rooney's materialistic wife and
Charlton Heston is football's commissioner who says that Diaz's character
would "Probably eat her own young if she could".
'Any Given Sunday', a heavy handed film about male bonding looks more like a
beer commercial in many spots rather than the actual game itself. There are
slow motion, hard hitting and musically dominated scenes of action on the
field and not enough quiet moments of reflection for the audience or any of
the film's characters.
Oliver Stone has been plagued in recent years with big budget overkill
contained within his films. I would like to see a studio give him a total
of about 5 to 6 million dollars and force him to make a film about academics
rather than technical flashes of grainy black and white, metaphors drawn
from other films, in your face shocks of fast editing and camera spins and
the return to great film making techniques like 'Platoon' and 'Salvador'
which gave Stone his status as a household name and only 'JFK' and perhaps
'Natural Born Killers' saves Stone from being a non factor in the 90's.
Perhaps Stone can take a lesson from his past in order to know where he's
going in the next decade....and century!
Copyright © 2000 Walter Frith