"Any Given Sunday" is a dramatic immersion in the world of American
Football, looking further than commentators and managers, and jumping
right in there
with the guys in the huddle. The film gives us its view on the current state
of the game, with character studies of both players and executives, but also
reminds us of the intense physical experience of playing. For true sportsmen,
that's the real thrill; for a lot of people in this movie, it's just
something that they must go through in order to get big pay cheques.
At the heart of the movie's narrative are scenes showing pitch action from a
first-hand point of view. If sometimes they seem irrelevant or confusing --
well, that's the point; players often look at their games in the same light.
Some reviews have accused the moments of being unnecessary stylistic excess,
but that's just because many journalists feel obliged to make unfounded
attacks on the director, Oliver Stone, a man who does not avoid using bold
techniques to tell his stories.
This time he follows a season in the life of the Miami Sharks, an American
Football team coached by Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino). Tony has lost a few games
in a row, and his old-school patience for things to get better is not shared
by today's press, who savage him whenever he puts a foot wrong. The new owner
of the Sharks, Christine Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), is just as hasty, and
demands an immediate solution to her squad's poor performance.
A young hotshot quarterback called Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) could be the
answer, because he has made some great plays in a few successive games, and
looks slick on magazine covers. Tony is cautious, though; he senses that
Beamen's ego could be dangerous, and the lad would not be a wise replacement
for 39-year old star performer Jack "Cap" Rooney (Dennis Quaid).
Egos are a big influence on all this, because professional sport is a
business built around the talents of temperamental athletes. Disagreements
over management strategy also play a big part, because it's a business full
stop. And it's an atmosphere where ethical standards are hard to keep up --
one of the doctors in "Any Given Sunday" feels it's his duty to allow players
to go on the field when injured, even at risk of death, because "for these
guys football IS life!"
We're so used to thinking of everything as corrupt in this day and age that
none of the above is particularly surprising. It's impressive, though, that
Stone has managed to cover so many areas and get such a convincing overview
of a sport. My only complaint is that the structure could have been tightened
into something more urgent. Stone's best films -- "Platoon", "Talk Radio",
"Born on the Fourth of July", "JFK" -- sweep us off our feet with angry gusto
and big emotional payoffs. "Any Given Sunday" is content to document, observe
and convey. While it does all these things well, a little more passion would
not have gone amiss.
Copyright © 2000 UK Critic