Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday
is a massive 150-minute American football drama which, for all its ferocity and cynicism, is as soft-centred and clichéd as any Rocky
-style underdogs-make-good crowd-pleaser. The Miami Sharks have lost three games in a row and their coach, Al Pacino in an intense performance as the only half-decent major character in the film, faces crisis when untested quarterback Willie Beamen (an excellent Jamie Foxx) becomes an overnight star. Fame goes to Beamen's ego; manager Cameron Diaz ruthlessly wheels-and-deals; and team doctor James Woods sacrifices medical ethics for his career. The Gladiator
-esque close-up "shakycam" visuals reflect the player's POV yet make many scenes almost incomprehensible, while the ludicrously fragmented (seven composers, 80 songs) rap-metal-ambient soundtrack obscures much of the dialogue. The world of American football is presented as brutal, nightmarish and corrupting, the players mainly drug-taking, money-grubbing, whoring, foul-mouthed barbarians. So when Stone's last act offers his hollow men as heroes, mythological noble warriors incarnate, the attempted feel-good finale rings seriously false. Stone exposed the rotten heart of the American dream to infinitely greater effect in JFK
(1991), is here too much in love with his target for the shots to hit home. --Gary Dalkin
On the DVD: The first disc presents the director's cut of Any Given Sunday. The UK cinema cut was nine minutes shorter than the US release. The director's cut starts with the longer US version, removes 11 minutes, adds six, including one of the most shocking and horrifying images seen on screen in some time, then re-edits several other sequences. Stone's commentary ranges far and wide, and he is far more interesting and thought-provoking to listen to than his film is to watch. The anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 image and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack are both flawless.
The second disc is divided into pre-game, half-time and post-game sections, beginning with Jamie Foxx's audition video and screen tests and a routine 27-minute making-of documentary. Halftime consists of two music videos by Jamie Foxx (both anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1) and one by LL Cool J. Post-game offers three sets of outtakes set to music, a stills gallery, a collection of advertising images and 33 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary from Stone. Completing an exceptional set of extras are DVD-ROM features on scripting and editing, plus reviews, a quiz and the complete original promotional Web site.
Life is a contact sport and football is life. Tony D'Amato, the embattled Sharks coach is facing a full-on blitz of team strife plus a new, marketing-savvy sharks owner who's sure Tony is way too old school.