Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Since I’m a pretty big football fan, though my fandom has waned over the past few years as life has become way more complicated, I’m going to start backtracking and watching football movies from days gone by to see how I think feel about them now as opposed to when I first saw them. With the few football movies I’ve already reviewed on this site I have determined that a football movie is probably the hardest genre of movie to screw up, for whatever reason, as most football movies seem to having something going for them that resonates with the audience. Today we’re not going back all that far, just to 1999 to relive maverick director Oliver Stone’s take on the greatest of all games, and that statement is not open to debate, to visit a movie I absolutely loved back in 1999 when I saw it at the theater. Nine years later I will admit I don’t luuuuv ‘Any Given Sunday’ quite as much as I did back then, but I do still like it an awful lot.

Stones film follows the exploits of the fictional Miami Sharks and its dogged and weathered head coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino). The Sharks are struggling, having lost three straight games and things get worse when their legendary but aging quarterback Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid) throws a disk in his back after a brutal sack. After Cap’s backup gets hurt as well, this throws the completely untested fifth year player Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) into the fray who struggles mightily as he is completely unprepared, but does almost manage to rally the team to a victory which gives Coach D’Amato some hope that they might be able to hold on to a playoff spot until Cap comes back from his injury.

The next couple of games Willie completely lights it up, leading his team to a couple of glorious victories, but along with Willie’s new found success comes a really bad case of the Big Head. Willie, however, is just one of Coach D’Amato’s problems as he has a

meddling owner in Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz) who would like to move the team to Los Angeles, He has a selfish star running back in Julian Washington (James Todd Smith) who is mainly concerned with his latest Cheerios commercial, he has a tough Linebacker Luther Lavay who one hit away from instant paralysis, he has as a team physician in Harvey Mandrake (James Woods) who doctors reports to the owners liking to get some players on the field and keep others off of it. He also has the ambitious offensive coordinator (Aaron Eckhart) angling for his job as well, and the coach also as a bit of a drinking problem. The things that Tony has on his side are his loyal Defensive coordinator Montezuma Monroe (Jim Brown) and of course his love for the game as he tries to prepare his team for another run at the coveted Pantheon Cup.

So what makes ‘Any Given Sunday’ rock so hard? First the actual football on the field that Stone filmed is some best fake football ever captured. Stone takes the best that movie magic provides, which is line of scrimmage access, the ability to place a camera practically anywhere and the ability to go into post and add deafening sound to the most bone crunching hits, then combine that with the real world interactions of how football is actually played to give possibly the most immersive football experience for any football movie ever. Only the ‘Gridiron Gang’ comes close to recreating as close to a complete football experience as ‘Any Given Sunday’ did. ‘Any Given Sunday’ rocks because Jim Brown is in it. Arguably the greatest football ever (for old dudes there is no argument) is possibly the best actor in this movie, despite the fact of the presence of Academy Award winners Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx. Obviously Stone lobbed one into Mr. Brown’s wheelhouse here having him a play a tough of nails, hard driving, profane, throwback football coach but Jim Brown brings an honesty and truth and an undeniable passion to the role of Monetzuma Brown. ‘Any Given Sunday’ rocked because this is the movie that we learned that Jamie Foxx could actually act, because we got see Elizabeth Berkely naked yet again, because Dennis Quaid was born to be in football movies, because Lauren Holly slapped the shit out of Dennis Quaid when he talked about quitting, because LL was great at doing that thing that LL does and because Lawrence Taylor will be awesome until the day he dies.

Now upon further review there were a few things bothered me more today that obviously didn’t bug me much in ’99. The frenetic editing with its jumpy camera and the incessant music really started to grate on nerve after a while. Is there any reason that The Sharks never had any away jerseys? I mean that wasn’t in the budget? The uniforms sucked pretty bad anyway. Stone sure did write quite a few sermons in this thing as well, so if you don’t like being preached to on a whole bunch of subjects then you might despise this flick. And who goes for it on fourth an inches, in field goal range, up by four with a minute and a half to go? That’s not a call I don’t think that Johnny U, the coach for mythical Texas Knights, would make in real life. And I’ve had enough of quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. How about showing some Left Tackles and Nose Guards some love for a change.

As I run through my list of football movies I cant compile a decent ranking of these movies until I’ve re-watched them all but I’d be pretty surprised if ‘Any Given Sunday’ doesn’t at least make my top 5.

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