“Any Given Sunday,” directed by Oliver Stone and starring Al
Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx and James Woods. Rated R.
Kernel Code: 2
Oliver Stone has made another brutalizing movie with “Any Given
At last, Stone has found the subject most akin to his penchant for
pulverizing nerves - tackle football.
For three nearly incoherent hours, Stone gives us his reductive view
of the game - bone crunching hits, a flashy catch, then more bone
Without much genuine drama, unless you count trying to predict when it
will end, “Sunday” grinds on without slackening its grip.
Stone, who directed and co-wrote the script with John Logan, tries to
wrap his game day scenes with the personal stories of the coach, players
and executives of a pro team.
Though the team, the Miami Sharks, plays in the AFFA not the NFL. Just
off a streak of winning seasons, Coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) clashes
with the Sharks’ ball-busting owner (Cameron Diaz).
Also, his flashy young quarterback (Jamie Foxx) won’t blindly follow
his orders, especially when D’Amato benches him for the more experienced
Jack Rooney (Dennis Quaid).
Instead of making dramatic sense out of football, tying it into a
clear story, Stone throws in all the play calling lingo and inside jargon
of the sport. That’s always been my big problem with Stone. He doesn’t
sort though his convoluted oversimplifications.
To give his movie “authenticity,” Stone fills it with cameos from
well-known NFL players - Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor, Dick Butkus, Warren
Moon and others.
While the on-the-field scenes have little variation, the others aren’t
any more compelling.
The embarrassingly bad off-the-field scenes -- whiskey after a tough
game, cocaine mansion parties, lots of locker room camaraderie (with some
frontal nudity) and guys shouting at each other - play like a male soap
Stone can’t resist throwing some of his 1960s counterculture politics
into the mix - the glitzy-empty marketing of the sport, prejudice toward
black quarterbacks, even the use (and abuse) of painkillers by the
Pacino gives the performance of the movie. Though he doesn’t have much
to work with, Pacino rightly emphasizes the coach’s burned out intensity
and ravaged personal life.
“I’ve driven away anyone who ever loved me,” he says at one point.
It wouldn’t be an Oliver Stone movie without James Woods, who shows up
briefly as a sleazy team doctor. Ann-Margret’s cameo, as the booze hound
widow of the Sharks’ former owner, is also memorable.