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Any Given Sunday

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Any Given Sunday

Starring: Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid
Director: Oliver Stone
Rated: R
RunTime: 160 Minutes
Release Date: December 1999
Genres: Drama, Sports

*Also starring: James Woods, Ann Margret, Todd Bacile, Bill Bellamy, Elizabeth Berkley, Jim Brown, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx

Review by UK Critic
3 stars out of 4

"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

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