That said, "Any Given Sunday" is a good football movie in every way that is opposite from the way "The Replacements" is a good football movie. I'm sure there are probably plenty of better examples, but I saw "The Replacements" most recently. Whereas "Replacements" showcases the best side of pro football, "Sunday" presents the worst. But this look at the not-so-glorious side of pro sports is welcome precisely because it's different from movies like "The Replacements" and perhaps "Remember the Titans" which is due out soon. I'm not so sure its message is exactly clear, though.
Oliver Stone's direction is at times explosive, at times just plain weird. For example, what was he thinking with the uninspired opening sequence? Or the excessive use of Moby songs? (How dare they use "My Weakness"???) In the beginning the snatches of silence were slightly distracting. There was so much going on during the first ten minutes that any distraction was unwelcome. We were introduced to the main characters all at once without further delay. That I liked. The football scenes were mostly pretty exciting, but maybe because I'm not a big fan of football, I found them repetitive after a while. The great performances in this film go to Jamie Foxx who proves he can do drama, Cameron Diaz who has the ability to portray vicious corporate shark (no pun intended) and Daddy's Little Girl at the same time, and Ann-Margret who was wonderful as the vulnerable, alcoholic mom. Dennis Quaid and Lauren Holly were decent, while Al Pacino was, well, his typical screaming self. But it was the right kind of performance for his character. These actors helped us care about these characters, despite the fact that we only got to know them within a short period of time.
I agree with the summary on IMDb which says this film is about "modern day gladiators." I've never though of football that way before, but I must agree it is true. There is no sport more dangerous than football, and every football player puts his life on the line for a chance to have his 15 minutes of fame (or longer, if you will). Much like gladiators. What's unique about "Sunday" is when you see these players march onto the field, you no longer see them as talented athletes marching on to claim their victory. You see a tragic death march, and what's funny is no one on screen seems to realize that. "Nervous excitement" redefined. We're nervous not because we don't know who's going to win, but because we don't know who's going to die.
What I didn't like about the film is that it once again caters to the stereotype of black athletes as uncivilized apes who are only capable of bullying people around on the field, and the stereotype of athletes in general as drug-addled, prostitute-surrounded jerks. I'm not denying that there are such individuals, but there were scenes that implied all athletes are like that, and I just didn't imagine Oliver Stone would do such a thing. What I did like about the film was the fresh new perspective it gave on football. I used to be one of those girls who thought watching football was about as exciting as watching Tori Spelling do Shakespeare. I'm still not that big of a fan, but these films have helped me appreciate, at least partly, the intricacies of football: the rules, the playbook, the coaching, the managing. And it wasn't a pretty sight, but as Al Pacino delivers in many of his outstanding speeches: You gotta fight for every inch. The big picture wasn't flattering, but like small players Pagniacci and Beamen, we learned tiny lessons. I've learned that football can inspire passion just like any other sport, and problems beneath the surface just like any other sport. The message may have come through clear enough for the viewers, but we wonder in the long run how much Christina or Willy picked up. Or Tony, even. The film preached that winning isn't important, but the characters on screen often saw otherwise. The film was entertaining enough--it didn't feel like it was 2 hours and 40 minutes long--and we certainly learned a few lessons about life in general thanks to its microcosm on the football playfield, but disappointingly, we were left feeling that the instructor left before the class adjoined.
Rating: B (First viewing, 9/18/00)
* Do people really play football in the rain and mud? (Besides in commercials.) Yowch, that sucks.
* The eyeball was disgusting. Not to mention fake-looking.