|Any Given Sunday (2000)
Starring: Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx,Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, LL Cool J, James Woods
Director: Oliver Stone
"Any Given Sunday" is like a lot of Oliver Stone's recent work. It happens, and then it's over. There is very little to digest, debate or even remember. It may be entertaining in parts, but it is certainly not important, nor is it half the whistle-blower on the business of football that it pretends to be. But that is not to say that it's bad. It simply isn't "JFK."
There is a story here, but not much of a plot. The story involves a veteran coach (Al Pacino) for the Miami Sharks, a team that's on the schnide, as Chris Berman would say. (The NFL did not give them permission to use real team logos, because the events that take place in this movie would never, ever happen in the NFL, and you'd be a fool and a Communist to think they do.) Their veteran quarterback, Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid), gets clobbered on a play and the second string QB gets hit even harder on the next play. In steps third-stringer Willie Beaman (Jamie Foxx), a natural athlete with what they call tremendous upside, but he has an attitude problem. He's changing plays in the huddle, much to the dismay of their star running back (LL Cool J) and the rest of the offense. The team owner (Cameron Diaz), a ruthless power bitch who inherited the team from her father, likes Beaman because he gets the fans into the game. Tensions mount between Diaz and Pacino when she tells him to start Beaman even though it's tearing the team apart.
Like all Oliver Stone movies, there are a ton of peripheral characters. There's the smarmy sportswriter (John C. McGinley), the owner's drunk mother (Ann Margaret), the offensive coordinator who's constantly at odds with Pacino over which plays to call (Aaron Eckhart), the linebacker who's playing injured and is risking his life doing so (former Giants great Lawrence Taylor), the team doctor who lost sight of the Hippocratic Oath years ago (James Woods), the assistant physician who still has a conscience (Matthew Modine), and a slew of others. The movie involves all of them, but the only characters who really matter are Pacino, Diaz and Foxx, though the football player who greets Diaz in the locker room, completely naked, has a long and prosperous career in the adult film industry ahead of him if he wants it.
Sadly, Stone still hasn't figured out how to write for women. Diaz is just a steamroller, interested in nothing but money. Margaret is a pathetic drunk. Rooney's wife is played by Lauren Holly, who explodes at the idea of Cap retiring, though it's unclear why, save perhaps the lost income. All of the football players' wives are stuck-up coke whores. Perhaps he meant for Foxx's longtime girlfriend Vanessa (Lela Rochon) to be a nice girl, but he blew it in execution.
Stone also set a record for Most Songs Used in a Film, breaking the previous record of fifty-some held by "Empire Records." There is nary an ounce of score in the background, just a lot of songs. Moby had at least three or four in there; the Propellerheads, Fatboy Slim and the Chemical Brothers, Gary Glitter, Black Sabbath, Kid Rock and a whole slew of rappers made the cut as well. In the credits, the songs took up three columns side by side (most movies only need to use two).
There is talk that this movie will change the way people make football movies, but that's debatable. Stone would shoot a deep pass in a tight close-up on the ball in the air, in slow motion, so it would take about 20 or 30 seconds, which is a lot longer than it sounds, then suddenly land in the arms of the receiver. For the most part he used that split-second editing thing he's turned into a trademark, even though this movie needed it about as much as "Nixon" did. The plays were very difficult to follow. In some instances, that was indeed his intention, but he overused it. One amusing bit was adding sound effects to the dances that players do in the end zone (one player throws the ball up in the air, and you hear a bomb dropping. The ball hits the ground, you hear the bomb explode and the players fall to the ground). The ending was also surprisingly sunny for a Stone movie, as if it was Disney-fied.
"Any Given Sunday" was supposed to be the "Wall Street" of football. Stone said he wanted to expose the seedy underbelly of professional football. But there was nothing here that's particularly controversial or shocking. Players playing hurt, that's old news. Drugs, oh yeah. Owners wanting to move their team by any means necessary? Hello, Art Modell. If there was a revelation here, it was lost. Still, for a movie that happens and then is over, it's a welcome distraction.