Any Given Sunday
Directed by Oliver Stone
Review by Matt Heffernan
Oliver Stone's most notable films are his "Vietnam Trilogy": Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, and Heaven & Earth. So it should seem fitting that his first sports movie is about the most martial of games: football.
Al Pacino plays Tony D'Amato, the head coach of the Miami Sharks. The once-great football team is now being managed by the late founder's daughter: Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz). She wants the team to modernize and emphasize passing, regardless of the venerable coach's opinion. The starting quarterback, Jack "Cap" Rooney (Dennis Quaid) is injured after losing three straight games. The second-stringer goes down right after him, so Tony sends out the new third-stringer: Willie Beaman (Jamie Foxx).
Beaman couldn't pull that win, but starts picking up and wins the next few games, keeping the playoff hopes alive and giving Cap a chance to come back for the postseason. Christina loves the seat-of-the-pants style that Beaman has, but Tony is frustrated by his lack of discipline and respect for his coaching. Beaman might not be executing the called plays, but he is winning and filling the stadium with new fans.
Stone obviously has a great zeal for the game. He has cast several football legends in small parts, including Jim Brown, Johnny Unitas, Dick Butkus, and Lawrence Taylor. The problem is that he has tried to fit too much into one film. It seems that since Natural Born Killers, Stone has been more concerned with amusing himself than trying to make films that are actually enjoyable to anybody else. Any Given Sunday isn't quite as indulgent or absurd as his other recent films, but it still does not measure up to his earlier work.
What I can't decide is whether this film is meciocre in spite of its great cast or because of it. In JFK, he made an all-star ensemble work, but here it's just jumbled. The screenplay (written by Stone and John Logan) was based on two books: On Any Given Sunday, a novel by Pat Toomay, and a memoir by Rob Huizenga titled "You're Okay, It's Just a Bruise": A Doctor's Sideline Secrets About Pro Football's Most Outrageous Team, about his time with the Raiders. It's quite apparent that there wasn't a strong center between those stories.
One can easily see from this film that Stone still has an exceptional talent for direction. Perhaps this is his transitional work, between the bizarre and whatever is coming next. Either he'll go the way of the studio or join the new crop of exciting filmmakers that were so influenced by his early work. Let's hope he finds the correct path.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Any Given Sunday (1999)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan