The Austin Chronicle

Any Given Sunday

Rated R, 162 min. Directed by Oliver Stone. Starring Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, Edward Burns, Ann-Margret, Todd Bacile, Bill Bellamy, Jim Brown, Aaron Eckhart, Frank Gifford.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 24, 1999

Just watching the trailer for Oliver Stone's new football epic a few weeks back left me with a grating headache; watching the whole sweaty film practically put me in the ICU. Stone, never one to whisper when he can yell, takes everything he's learned since the cinematic mental crack-up of Natural Born Killers, turns it all up to 11, and then rips the knob off and jams it down your throat. Some people will like this. Personally, I needed a scalding hot shower, a nap, and a small fuzzy kitten to play with before I could get my head back on straight. Football has been compared to warfare innumerable times; for Stone, it's a race war, and he's sided with the downtrodden black players on this one. Ever the self-styled “stick it to the Man” Hollywood outsider, Stone's version of the Truth About Men involves lots of slo-mo sacks, bodies pinwheeling against the darkening sky, and breasts. Lots of 'em. Any Given Sunday is Stone's Guy Epic, though if you're prone to less violent tests of a man's sporting mettle -- say, soccer -- you may come out of this wondering if you've been shorted in the testosterone department. Women will probably just shake their heads and sigh, and they're right to do so. It's all spleen-pulverizing about nothing, though Stone strains mightily to invest his film with the appropriately testicular meaning. Pacino plays Tony D'Amato, the aging coach of the beat-down Miami Sharks. As the film opens, they've lost four in a row, and he's not aging very gracefully. His star quarterback -- Jack “Cap” Rooney (Quaid) -- has just been sidelined with a catastrophic injury; the new hotshot QB, Willie Beaman (Foxx), is making his own plays up in the middle of the huddle; and the owner of the team (Diaz) cares more about the bottom line than about the rules of the game. To his credit, Pacino's wonderfully hangdog mug captures every torment, no matter how small, and throws it right back out. Those lips, those eyes, that ulcer. D'Amato looks like a road map to Sadtown, USA, while all around him parade nonbelievers of every stripe, from the chattering heads calling the plays from their mount on high (one of whom, it should be noted, is Mr. Stone) to the squirrely team doctor (Woods, typecast yet again), a veritable fount of needles, pills, and gooey dishonesty. What's a guy to do? If it's an Oliver Stone film, and you'd better believe that it is, he's gotta get in there and fight, fight, fight. He may not be using a gun this time out, but there are shades of Tony Montana in Tony D'Amato (they even sound similar). What's it all about? I'm wondering that, too. My guess is it has something to do with aging gracefully, a lesson the director clearly has yet to learn. Perhaps a quieter, gentler Oliver Stone was too much to ask from Santa this year, or maybe I just misspelled “Santa.” Whichever, I'm selling my shares in Dell and socking it all into Tylenol as soon as possible.

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