‘On any given Sunday you’re gonna win or you’re gonna lose…’
Sports movies are nothing like sports in real life. Anyone that has snoozed their way through a heavyweight boxing match knows that they bear no resemblance to the Rocky films. As a Doncaster Rovers fan of many years, I sit through hours and hours of utter dross before anything vaguely cinematic happens. Sports movies are not interested in drudgery, and that’s what makes them so entertaining. Any Given Sunday takes American Football and turns it into something poetic and hysterical, breathless and gladiatorial, something worthy of the silver screen…
All the archetypes are here. Inspirational coach (Al Pacino). Fading superstar (Dennis Quaid). Young upstart (Jamie Foxx). Ruthless team owner (Cameron Diaz). What makes this film stand out is the level of performance, the direction of Oliver Stone and a wonderful script from Stone, Daniel Pyne and John Logan.
Let’s start with Pacino. It would be preposterous to start anywhere else. The American actor dominates this movie from start to finish. He is utterly magnetic and inspirational throughout and the complicated relationships he shares with his two starring quarterbacks in Foxx and Quaid make Any Given Sunday the huge success that it is. Stone’s filming style alternates between an Inside Baseball style behind-the-scenes documentary and an overwrought, out-of-control opera depending on where the action is. The scenes that take place on the field are genuinely feverish, boarding on hallucinatory, at one point someone literally loses an eye. A supporting cast made up of LL Cool J, Aaron Eckhart and John C. McGinley adds some class to the proceedings but really this is all about Pacino and Stone.
This movie shouldn’t work. It’s too ostentatious. Too ambitious. Too much. But in the end, it is exactly the big swings for the rafters that make everything click into place for Any Given Sunday. Oh, and it also has an absolutely banging soundtrack.