Any Given Sunday Review
By Joe Lozito
Only Al Pacino could give a quiet, thoughtful performance while screaming so often and so loudly. In "Any Given Sunday", Oliver Stone's epic morality play about corruption and double-crossing in professional football, Mr. Pacino plays veteran head coach Tony D'Amato. Tony D, as he is known, is one of those movie coaches who always has a half-time speech that builds to a climax of players rushing from the locker room cheering.
In fact, Mr. Pacino is wonderful as a aging star who, in trying to get his ailing Miami Sharks into the playoffs, is forced to re-evaluate nearly every choice he's made in his life. Also giving a performance of surprising depth is TV's Jamie Foxx as hotshot quarterback Willie Beaman. Cameron Diaz is trapped in this pool of testosterone, and comes off as a whiny brat as the deceased owner's daughter and heir.
Since the NFL did not sanction the film, the football scenes have a surreal quality to them. Mr. Stone and his crew have created a whole league of their own, with teams like the Dallas Knights and the Minnesota Americans. Sometimes this works, but other times - like the Super Bowl-ish "Pantheon Cup" - fall short.
Despite its near three-hour running time, "Any Given Sunday" succumbs quickly to the standard sports-movie formula - complete with "The Big Game" finale. This is perhaps inevitable for a movie in this genre. However, with few surprises and little to say in this film, it is unclear why Oliver Stone was interested in making it in the first place.
To be fair, Mr. Stone does imbue the football scenes with bone-crunching, primal sound effects (the linebackers appear to roar like lions) and visceral visuals. And there are some fun cameos for football fans: Lawrence Taylor adds a note of authenticity as a player who's one concussion short of paralysis; Dick Butkis and Johnny Unitas make appearances as rival coaches.
Oliver Stone has always been a fine, thought-provoking director. It is a surprise, then, that "Sunday", should seem shallow and lacking a point. Perhaps his recent "Natural Born Killers" debacle has made Mr. Stone wary of taking any strong stances. Whatever the reason, his "Sunday" is a story that has been done before and to greater effect. It is full of much sound and fury, but it signifies very little.