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Any Given Sunday: Director's Cut

Warner Home Video

Starring Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, and Cameron Diaz

Written by John Logan and Oliver Stone
Directed by Oliver Stone

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Review by D.K. Holm                    

Any Given Sunday finds director Oliver Stone in modified protest mode. Apparently, all the brouhaha that surrounded the release of his explicitly political films such as JFK and Nixon, and the failure to mount further political fables, such as a profile of Noriega (not to mention the collapse of his comfortable relationship with Warner and the departure of key collaborators in editing and other functions), have soured Stone on courting controversy. However, turning to the film soleil subject matter of U-Turn did not give the director respite from contentiousness, as reports of on-set feuding and subsequent harsh reviews dogged him. But you can't keep a brazen director down. Stone can't help but keep his political skepticism and his Woodward-Bernstein inclinations out of his films. With Any Given Sunday, the viewer anticipated that Stone would "take on" pro football and "expose" it, and to a certain degree that's true. But at the same time the narrative is somewhat conventional, and Stone doesn't say anything that we don't already know about sports in America. On the other hand, Stone is at the fullness of his game (cinematically), and the movie is a great ride.

The actual plot of Any Given Sunday is recognizable from other sports films. Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino) is the longtime coach of the Miami Sharks (all the pro ball teams in the movie are fictional). His squad isn't doing too well. His QB is an aging hulk amusingly named Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid). When Rooney is injured in a game, Tony turns to Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), a relatively untried loner with an attitude problem. Unexpectedly, Beamen is a success, though he clashes with just about everyone. As the team moves toward the playoffs, D'Amato wants to switch back to a healthy Rooney, while team owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), scion of the team's deceased founder, wants the attention-getting Beamen to keep playing. There are numerous subplots that deal with the various relationships of some of the players to their wives, their teammates and their careers, such as the desire of one athlete (Lawrence Taylor) to reach a financial goal even at the risk of his health, and in the end some somewhat under motivated changes of heart, all followed by a marvelous end-credit sequence that is one of the most powerful, touching, exuberant, and satisfying passages that Stone has ever committed to film.

Stone and credited co-writer John Logan pack a lot of issues into the text of the film (additional writers include Daniel Pyne). They touch on the politics of stadium-ownership, on the hidden mandate that team physicians must follow, on the private lives of public role-models, among numerous other issues. The film actually had about five titles (or should I say labels) during production, including "Gridiron," "The League," "Monday Night," "Playing Hurt," and the more prolix variant, "On Any Given Sunday." I guess they never came up with the right title: budgeted at $60 million, the film made $75 million in the U.S., with an additional £1 million in the U.K., and Cameron Diaz won a couple of minor awards for her performance. Nevertheless, Any Given Sunday is a film in which Stone is in absolute command of form: the editing, photography, and interweaving of music are all effortless, rich, hyperactive, yet always clear. And the cast is packed, with small turns from such great actors as Stone reg James Woods and even a cameo by Charlton Heston (whose film Ben-Hur figures in the background of a key scene).

Despite its subject matter, Any Given Sunday is best viewed as another Wall Street: panoramic, contemporary, but not particularly insightful. Still, Stone is a great, if uneven, filmmaker, and Warner has honored him with a special director's cut of Any Given Sunday on DVD. The lively, animated menu (which comes with 47 chapters) is housed on a single-sided, dual layered disc with a peerless anamorphic transfer of the 2.35:1 image. Once you get past the talent files (on Pacino, Diaz, Quaid, James Woods, Foxx, and Stone), there's the very effective trailer, the just-OK LL Cool J video, and a 27-minute "making of" documentary, notable for the absence of Pacino among the interviewees. A commentary track or two might have been nice, especially one featuring forthright former pros, but as Stone was recently in the midst of recording several tracks for some new DVD re-releases, perhaps he didn't have time to dwell on any new stuff. Any Given Sunday: Director's Cut also comes with a host of DVD-ROM extras: chat-room access, website links, movie review "scoreboard," the film's original promotional website, and sampler trailers. The most significant thing about this disc is that, as a special edition Director's Cut, the movie contains both deleted and slightly longer scenes. Most noticeable is a self-contained scene at a party in which cocaine is snorted off of a woman while another man is engaged in sex. Later, during a crucial game, a player for an opposing team loses an eye, and there are several shots of the organ on the ground, then placed in a bag for freezing. It's all vulgar stuff and doesn't add anything to the movie, but the footage is educational to see from a film student's viewpoint.

— D. K. Holm

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