Being from the Netherlands I’m not really familiar with American Football. Sure I can throw some terms around here and there like Quarterback, Yard line and Touch Down, but that is just it. But it being such a big sport in America we do have a clear image of the sport outside the USA; big men throwing en agg shaped ball to each other scoring points by reaching the other side of the field. That and that the quarteback dates the head cheerleader of course.
In the movie Jamie Fox’s character mentions that he’s not that well knows as two billion people in China have never heard of the sport. And that’s true, but in the end you can exchange the Football for soccer, baseball, basketball, curling or any other sport you want as the movie is more about the athletes, coaches and clubs than it is about the sport.
Any Given Sunday is about the Miama Sharks, a fictional team, that has been losing a couple of times in a row. That changes when the 38-year old star quarterback Jack ’Cap‘ Rooney (Dennis Quaid) is severly injured duringa game. When his replacement leaves the field also due to an injury within the same game everything comes down to his replacement Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx). Willie is unfamiliar with all the game plans and does his own thing resulting in a win. This is his first step into becoming a new star quarterback, which will lead to many conflicts with his coach and the rest of theam as his arrogants grows with every success.
There are several storylines woven trough each other, resulting in some of them being pushed back in favor of the other. But together they provide an intriguing look into the behind the scenes of a big sports club. Egos that clash, players who all with different interests next to just winning games, a coach who has lost his touch, an owner whose main concern are the finances and even team doctors who both have different ethics on how to treat the players. Even the sports commentators are represented by a slimy character played by John C. McGinley.
If the movie wants to bring a message to its audience it’s that in sports you dedicate everything to it even if it means losing your relationships or even your health.
The movie is carried by the character of Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) who is the center of all the stories. He has lost his wife to American Football and clashes with the new born star Willie Beamen who ignores the coach’s plans and goes his own way. Pacino also has lots of run-ins with the owner of the club, Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz). She’s the daughter of the former owner and does tries to do things more based on finances than out of live for the game.
Pacino shines as the coach but does not disappear in the character. He gets to deliver multiple locker room speeches to his pupils and brings them in true Pacino fashion. They are delicious to watch and actually inspirational at some times too, but this performance is not that radically different than most of his performances he has delivered since winning an Oscar by ranting in Scent Of A Woman. Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz however were surprising at the time. They bring solid serious performances in a time they were mostly associated with light hearted comedies.
A bit overlong and at some points filled with unnecessery plot-elements like the mother of Christina who has signs of being alcoholic, Any Given Sunday is a rather good and intriguing movie. Certain directorial choices could have been avoided but compared to earlier movies by Oliver Stone made in the 90s it is rather constrained.