"Any Given Sunday"

What could be worse than Oliver Stone's cloddish, didactic football movie? How about six more minutes and some softball interviews?

Published January 30, 2001 8:00PM (EST)

"Any Given Sunday"
Directed by Oliver Stone
Starring Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, Jamie Foxx, James Woods
Warner Brothers; widescreen anamorphic (2.35:1 aspect ratio)
Extras: Director's cut with six minutes of deleted footage, making-of documentary "Full Contact," LL Cool J's "Shut 'Em Down" music video

Occasionally "Any Given Sunday" reproduces the dramatic victories, wild plays and constant contact of real football. The film is far less exciting when it pounds home Oliver Stone's not-exactly original idea that the physical brutality of the game is exactly what makes men men. It's the same idea that animates almost every action movie, but here Stone reinforces it with obvious, didactic dialog -- just in case you don't get the point. "On any given Sunday you're gonna win or you're gonna lose," says Al Pacino, playing NFL coach Tony D'Amato. "The point is, can you win or lose like a man?" Such maxims are repeated ad infinitum, and they're accompanied by all manner of gladiator references, going all the way back to "Ben Hur's" chariot race, and even a cameo by manly man Charlton Heston.

Pacino's D'Amato is an aging coach buffeted by the changing nature of the game. Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz) is the young owner of the Miami Sharks; she's inherited the team from her father and she's hellbent on winning a championship. On the field, in mid-season, D'Amato loses his first- and second-string quarterbacks in a matter of minutes and sends his third-stringer, Willie Beaman (Jamie Foxx), into the fray. It turns out that the kid has the arm, the speed and the gift for calling disorienting, off-the-wall plays. Beaman is launched into the big time and becomes a superstar who carries his team toward a playoff spot.

Working from that premise, the film makes room for endless screaming matches. D'Amato lambastes Pagniacci for not running the team like her father did. Pagniacci tells D'Amato that he's too old. Beaman tells his teammates that they're supporting players in his game; in response they cut his car in half and allow some brutal sacks. Stone knows how to direct action, and for two and a half hours he doesn't give you a single chance to let your eyes rest. At times, it's almost unbearable -- only some decent acting by Pacino and his junior cast members makes the nonstop-style editing tolerable.

The DVD extras are limited, yet manage to wear your patience. The "director's cut" advertised on the snap case means that you see the same version that came out at the theater, plus a paltry extra six minutes. And the 30-minute making-of documentary, "Full Contact," is pretty much 30 minutes of the cast enthusing over Stone as great director and Pacino as great actor. It's the kind of thing that might excite die-hard fans. For the rest of us, it's just another fluffy "Entertainment Tonight" feature that provides an object lesson in how some studios really don't care about or get the potential of DVDs.

By Max Garrone

Max Garrone is Salon's Vice President for Operations.

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