There's only about 22 minutes of plot in "Any Given Sunday," Oliver Stone's innovative, bone-crunching ballet of sound and fury football, so lets get that out of the way right now:
Al Pacino stars as the embattled, old-school coach of a fictitious pro football team. Cameron Diaz, is the willful, profit-zealous daughter of the franchise's recently deceased owner. Jamie Foxx is a hotshot young quarterback whose know-it-all attitude and colossal ego threaten team unity. He's just replaced the injured, aging, Elway-esque veteran QB Dennis Quaid, whose compound back injury has spelled curtains for his career -- if only his ruthlessly ambitious, harpy of a wife (Lauren Holly) would accept that fact.
During the last two minutes of the fourth quarter of the Big Playoff Game that serves as the film's climax, each of these characters (especially the selfish ones) will have an epiphany about what's really important in their lives.
Obvious? Sure. But what "Any Given Sunday" lacks in story it makes up for in character, atmosphere and full-throttle intensity. This is version 3.0 of Stone's experimental, kinetic montage approach to filmmaking, and a marked improvement over the similarly structured "Natural Born Killers" and "U-Turn."
Half this movie takes place in a barrage of images on the football field, yet Stone's playbook never runs out of resourceful ways to put the action right in your lap. With a thundering, 60-song, video game soundtrack driving almost every scene and scores of wildly creative edits and camera placements, Stone takes us inside huddle, over the shoulder of the quarterback and inserts us directly the middle of the gridiron chaos in a way ESPN never could.
Watching this film, you get an overwhelming sense of exactly what it's like to be staring up at 6-foot-6, 300 lb. linebacker (for emphasis Stone sneaks a few tiger growls into the audio) while 80,000 people roar in the stands. It shows us, in tell-tale flashes, how much it hurts to be walloped by one of these human locomotives. The camera jets around the field, shaking, rumbling and pausing for a flash here, a moment there, as Stone splices together an intensive, vicarious event film boasting powerful performances from a stellar cast.
When "Sunday" is not compelling the audience to taste the Astroturf, it's busy mixing a volatile cocktail of clashing personalities that are surprisingly well-developed considering the movie's music video stylings.
Pacino's chest-pounding, junk-yard-dog integrity is matched bark for bark by the increasingly impressive Diaz, who proves once again that she's got the guts to take on challenging roles. How many models-turned-actresses do you know who can go nose-to-nose in a shouting match with this guy and win -- not because the script says so, but because she's that good? This is Oscar-caliber stuff. Seriously.
Meanwhile, Foxx makes a strong impression as the team's miracle third-string QB, who gets on his teammates' bad sides by letting his surprising win record swell his head to pompous proportions.
Even the multitude of supporting players -- James Woods as a reprobate field doctor, John C. McGinley as a greasy sports writer, Ann-Margret as Diaz's poodle-toting, lush of a mother, LL Cool J, Aaron Eckhart and several others -- have plenty to chew on.
Stone missteps from time to time -- especially in regards to time (cocky Foxx has his own music video on MTV after only four games in the driver's seat? Puh-leaze!) -- and as always his metaphors and symbolism are about as subtle as artillery shells. Gladiator parallels abound and rival team is even called the Crusaders -- Ah-ha! An allusion to sanctioned violence! And what's this I see? A scene from "Ben Hur" superimposed on Pacino during his big speech?
But just by the nature of Stone's saturation-bombing style, this 160-minute movie is never, ever dull, and it's absolutely packed with quick but substantive images (e.g., an injured player's hand gripping the turf) and other details of the game on the field and off that stick to your mind like a good meal sticks to your ribs.
It gets a little grandiose in its neatly (and inventively) packaged finale, and truth be told, "Any Given Sunday" won't age well, what with its vintage 1999 soundtrack assault and its gimmicky picture-in-picture transitions. But right now, on the big screen, in surround sound and 15 feet tall, it's a hell of a show that will probably make this year's Superbowl look like a round of golf by comparison.
Run time: 162 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 22nd December 1999
Box Office Worldwide: $100.2M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Warner Bros. Pictures, Ixtlan, Donners' Company
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 61 Rotten: 60
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Oliver Stone
Starring: Al Pacino as Tony D'Amato, Cameron Diaz as Christina Pagniacci, Dennis Quaid as Jack 'Cap' Rooney, James Woods as Dr. Harvey Mandrake, Jamie Foxx as Willie Beamen, LL Cool J as Julian Washington, Lela Rochon as Vanessa Struthers, Matthew Modine as Dr. Ollie Powers, Jim Brown as Montezuma Monroe, Lawrence Taylor as Luther 'Shark' Lavay, Bill Bellamy as Jimmy Sanderson, Andrew Bryniarski as Patrick 'Madman' Kelly, Lauren Holly as Cindy Rooney, Ann-Margret as Margaret Pagniacci, Aaron Eckhart as Nick Crozier, Ron Madoff as Assistant Coach