On any given Sunday you can either win or lose. On any given Sunday, a star can fall, and a hero can rise in his place. On any given Sunday, life is a contact sport. And on any given Sunday, a movie can be good or bad or in the middle.
I actually saw Any Given Sunday on a Wednesday, but the results are the same: mixed. Oliver Stone has managed to bring the intensity of football to the big screen, but also a lackluster bunch of characters that don't have a good thing going for them.
When the football is being played, you can't help but notice how Saving Private Ryan-esque is is. The cameras shake with detailed confusion, bounce with every thundering footsteps of the 300-pound players, and move as swift as the fastest running back. Every hit, fumble, and pass is momentous, and it is even hard to hear the dialogue at times as the crowd is cheering so much. Ah yes, Oliver Stone has brought football to life.
But off the field, it is a whole other ballgame. Some things, like the quarrels between the new manager and the aging coach, probably have happened countless times through the ages. Perhaps the offense and defense have gotten into fights about who's fault it is for losing the game. And maybe practice of covering up considerably dangerous injuries to keep playing is common.
But the fact that this professional football league does not bear the name NFL, none of the teams really exist, or that the Super Bowl is called the Pantheon Bowl tells us something: Any Given Sunday didn't get the rights from the NFL for a reason. Either the NFL didn't give it to them or Stone didn't even try, because the movie definitely shows football in a negative light, even though it is glamorizing the players as gladiators.
If I were the NFL I wouldn't allow this movie to use the rights, because Oliver Stone has packaged every ugly aspect of the off-field game into a three hour package, as if he took the lowlights from every real team and shoved them onto this one movie team (or maybe he's just trying to scratch at the Dallas Cowboys). Every player swears their head off, half of the team uses cocaine (which I found somewhat unrealistic... while some players do use drugs, I have to question do that many on one team use drugs in the middle of the season?), and prostitutes are everywhere. The biggest supporting character, played by Jamie Foxx, is a conceited asshole, although he does get better in the end (after a rather sudden character shift that isn't completely justified). Even Al Pacino, who stars in the movie and is the most likeable, has fun with a prostitute, and likes to swear at all.
It's hard to watch a movie when you don't like any of the characters, where you don't care if any of them live or die or succeed or fail. The only character that I felt any sorrow for was this big blocker, but he only really gets a role in the movie in the last half hour. Dennis Quaid's character isn't even that great to watch.
Even if the off-field drama is anything but glamorizing and the swearing gets a little obnoxious, Oliver Stone's version of football with his trademark style of camerawork and editing brings a new intensity to the game. There are tons of football movies out there that work with the characters; Any Given Sunday works with the plays, and has a dazzling effect.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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