Welcome to PAN & SCAN where you will find film reviews of some of Hollywood's latest productions.
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ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Starring: Al Pacino
Running Time: 162 Minutes
Rating: Rated R for strong language and some nudity/sexuality.
Video Release: September 2000
Tagline: "Life is a contact sport."
Oliver Stone's latest film, Any Given Sunday, seems geared for one of two kinds of people: SPORTS fans or STONE fans. If you're neither, then this film may strike you as nothing more than a steroid laden, two-hour-plus, music video.
Al Pacino stars as Coach Tony D'Amato of the fictional Miami Sharks. Despite many years of success, he faces a potential losing season as cataclysm blitzes him from both corners. On the field, a third string quarterback has taken over the head position as both first and second string QB's have been sidelined with injuries. QB Willie 'Steamin' Beamen (Jamie Foxx), manages to pull off a string of victories but allows the fame to go straight to his head. His inflated ego creates rifts in the organization, pitting him against Pacino and his fellow teammates.
Off the field, Pacino must deal with new owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), who has taken over for her late father. Her interest in the Sharks is primarily revenue driven and she entertains the idea of breaking her contract with several key players AND the city itself -- wishing to move the team out west. When she begins to dictate to Pacino how to run his team, he sees that his beloved Sharks (and his career) are in the hands of someone who has zero interest for the game.
If -and only if- the filmmaker had focused on these two storylines, Any Given Sunday might have satisfied the average viewer. Stone though is no ordinary filmmaker. Stone is un artiste who has created an epic score in which the momentum is driven by pure adrenaline. Pro football is portrayed as being similar to the glitz and ruthlessness of Hollywood and Stone enjoys driving this point down the viewer's throat. [Never let it be said that Stone doesn't like to make a statement.]
The fault with Any Given Sunday is the story drowns in an excess of style. Populated with many talented actors, there's no room for any to execute a moment of dramatic performance. Instead, they are lined up like ducks in a row and Stone is pulling the trigger. He and his editors bound from extreme close-up to whip pans to lightning bolts and old reel footage, making the film a potpourri of disembodied imagery that is supposed to be connected because of its soundtrack. Granted, the film's focus is the gladiatorial ritual of modern day barbarism but the overall production (intent on overloading one's senses) doesn't allow active audience participation.
A good example of how we are reminded that we're a detached observer is when Pacino and Foxx are arguing at Pacino's home. In the b.g., a TV portrays images from Ben Hur. It's obvious that this argument isn't in real time as the movie is played out of sequence. Not enough? How about Charlton Heston playing the role as the football commissioner. Hey - didn't we just see this guy racing a chariot?
While Pacino may be one of the great character actors of his day, with so many distractions and subplots occurring, his character is lost in the huddle. Foxx's rise and fall happens so quickly, no one gets to know who the real man is. First string quarterback Dennis Quaid (and his marital woes) has potential but he gets sacked in the first minutes of the game. By the time he comes back, in the latter half of the film, it's too late to care.
As for the other cast members? Most of their character arcs occur in the final playoff game (an annoying coincidence) but they're more filler than substance. Wasted is James Woods, an unscrupulous team physician who is at odds with his naive assistant (Matthew Modine). LL Cool J is the Sharks' running back and is there to "look good" -- but not much more. NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor shows some genuine talent as a man who punishes himself to finish the season despite a history of horrendous head injuries. Jim Brown, the Sharks defensive coach who has some very funny lines, is another of the many former NFL types scattered throughout the movie. It's only Diaz who has enough breathing space to allow her character ample growth.
The NFL refused Stone the use of real NFL logos or teams for his film. Perhaps they weren't amused by Stone's portrayal of the pro football world. A world where owners donate money to anti-drug causes -- as their players indulge in prostitution and cocaine. A world where fair play and safety are overpowered by commercialism and greed. A world of decimation, debauchery, and decay. A must see for Stone fans. If not, wait for it to come on cable.
© Terrence J. Brady
The ratings for "Pan & Scan" are broken down into a simple 1-5 scale as follows: 5 = "Forget renting it - BUY IT!"; 4 = "Definite Must Rent"; 3 = "Coin Toss" (Rent it OR wait for cable); 2 = "Wait For Cable"; 1 = "Ignore It!" (Even when it's on network TV).