Any Given Sunday (1999)
Directed by: Oliver Stone | 151 minutes | drama, sports | Actors: Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J, Matthew Modine, Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylro, Bill Bellamy, Andrew Bryniarski, Lela Rochon, Lauren Holly, Ann-Margret, Aaron Eckhart, Elizabeth Berkley, Charlton Heston, John C. McGinley, James Karen, Gianni Russo, Duane Martin, Clifton Davis
Between September and the first weekend in February, every weekend in America is dedicated to football. For many people, this violent sport is more than a sport, it is life in a game. In ‘Any Given Sunday’ this is a given and director Oliver Stone shows how it goes behind the scenes at a professional team. Al Pacino is Tony D’Amato, an old school coach. His team, the Miami Sharks, are struggling in the regular season and the pressure for change is prompted on the one hand by the injury of quarterback Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid) and the over-my-corpse mentality of club owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz) on the other hand. D’Amato Calls on Reserve Reserve Quarterback Willie Beamon (Jamie Foxx); he must lead the team to the playoffs. In short, all the ingredients for a typical sports film. Fortunately, ‘Any Given Sunday’ is something more than that.
As usual, Stone has a clear vision of, in this case, American Football. It is an opportunistic, hard, capitalistic and insane world, linked by money and the greed for fame. That message is almost impossible to miss. But does the combination of this message and typical sports film clichés make ‘Any Given Sunday’ a successful film?
The answer to this question is an unconvincing yes. Stone is anything but subtle in his way of telling. Sometimes the film looks more like a sequence of video clips than a balanced film. That often gets in the way of the story. Sure, we live match to match and every clip hints at this episodic character, but it sometimes gets in the way of the bigger story. The main part of that story is the character development of the old D’Amato and the young “Steamin” Willie Beamon. It is a clash between young and old, between old-fashioned and modern, and between honor and fame. That is actually a lot more interesting than whether or not the play-offs are made.
It is a pity that the NFL (the official league) has not cooperated with this film and that the fictional character thus becomes less credible for the loyal football fan. That does not alter the fact that it is a fascinating look into the world of American Football that is especially convincing due to the acting performances of both Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx. The only downside is that this film is a long and somewhat incoherent film for non-football fans. If you like it then ‘Any Given Sunday’ is a fascinating insight into the opportunistic world called American Football.