FILM REVIEW: Any Given Sunday - Lessons in the Game of Life
by Cathy Babao-Guballa (The Philippine Star) - May 6, 2000 - 12:00am

For Oliver Stone, director of Any Given Sunday, football isn't just a game, it's a noble battle, a pure expression of human nature -- ruthless yet fraternal. On any given Sunday, the characters state solemnly and repeatedly throughout the film. "You can either win or lose but what matters is that you do both like a man." The film uses football to depict issues like ageism, racism and sexism, but more importantly, it's mostly about what it means to be a man, especially in a society where rules are ever-changing.

The film revolves around various characters by coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino), who has devoted most of his life to the game. His team, the Miami Sharks, has lost several games in a row and must win their remaining ones to make it to the playoffs. Tony's nemesis is the team's president and co-owner, Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz) who isn't particularly happy with the way D'Amato runs the team. Playing crucial roles within the team is veteran quarterback. Jack "Cap" Rooney (Dennis Quaid) and charismatic but cocky third string quarterback, Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx). Adding more complications to the story are the team's orthopedist, Dr. Mandrake (James Woods) and the team internist, Dr. Powers (Matthew Modine). Add to this are a host of other players portrayed by LJ Cool J and Lawrence Taylor.

Loud, extravagantly over the top, and quite lengthy at nearly three hours, the film is an elaborate, electric look at nearly everything connected to the game of football. Oliver Stone, an undeniably stylish director has the gift of conveying intense emotion and that gift if put to good use here. There are many moments in the film where the physical pain and thumbscrew pressure of being an athlete are beautifully, sadly played. From the opening huge close-up of a football, the viewer knows he is in the hands of a director whose powers will immerse him in the sights and sounds of football as he had never experienced them. To be honest, I didn't think I would enjoy this film but surprisingly found myself completely engrossed in the sights and sounds of this epic film on football. Stone creates a sensory experience of football that is so stunning it almost compensates for the occasional weariness in the script. Visually and viscerally, it is like you are there, in the midst of the game itself. It is a physically realistic portrayal of life on the field in what's literally a bone-jarring fashion. Pacino, Diaz and Foxx give highly credible performances as well. Though many have criticized Pacino for essentially playing the same type of character again and again, in Any Given Sunday he delivers another riveting performance as the coach who realizes his days and ways of thinking may be numbered.

Cameron Diaz, who isn't especially known for playing "brass-balled" types of characters (remember her in My Best Friend's Wedding or Something About Mary?) -- in this film, she actually does a pretty decent job of playing a ruthless owner only interested in the bottom line. Jamie Foxx (Willie Beamen) breathes life and a much-appreciated sense of humor into his character whose trademark move is anxiety-induced vomiting -- watch out for this guy! Dennis Quaid as the injured quarterback doesn't do very much but take note of his "ball-busting" wife portayed by Lauren Holly -- the woman just seethes with greed. Essentially, Any Given Sunday is a man's film specifically, a man who loves sports, football in particular. To be able to sit through a film for three hours, be it an Oliver Stone film or the Titanic is no easy task. Brace yourselves for dazzling visuals in the Oliver Stone fashion and a soundtrack that will be reverberating in your head, long after you've left the cinema (more so if it's THX). More importantly though, Any Given Sunday shows us how greed and power can destroy even the best of men, how success can ruin families and lives and teaches, not only lessons in manhood but lessons in the game of life itself.

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