Had to rent it last night. I've seen this movie before, several years ago, closer to when it came out. Maybe in the theater, maybe on video. Either way, wanted to see it again. First of all, I love Oliver Stone. Platoon, Wall Street, and, Salvador are three of my favorite movies. The first two are basically canonized at this point, and the third is also fantastic. It's vintage James Woods, who also has some of the best lines in Any Given Sunday (the scene when he argues with Al Pacino and Matthew Modine is one of the best in the movie). Second, the Jets are having just a terrible season. My team's in the hunt for Reggie Bush (513 yards against Fresno State, holy moly), or at least the ability to draft him, and I needed some solid football escapism.
Any Given Sunday is notable for several reasons. Obviously the up-close view of the football action is cool. But the sound editing is probably even more impressive than the camera work. Whatever they used to make the rotating/swishing noise for the spirals in flight, it was a good idea. And the Saving Private Ryan-esque moments of total silence and vision coming into and out of focus brought the game home. The movie emphasizes the speed and power of professional football.
I like Jamie Foxx, but I generally feel that he's a little over-rated. He tends to strike mostly one note--a lot of bravado (I thought he was solid in Collateral). But that works pretty well here, since he's playing a star athlete who thinks he's been scorned for several years. In addition though, to him and the big names like Pacino and Woods, and Cameron Diaz, who's takes full opportunity of what is given to her in the last third of the movie, when her character is feeling less certain of everything around her, all do very well. Oliver Stone is into big, epic themes. Football announcing and mythology is filled with well-worn cliches and character types and Dennis Quaid is excellent as the agining Joe Montana/Brett Favre gladiator. The film hinges on how masculinity as defined and fought for, and Quaid alternates between pride, uncertainty, and confidence with a lot of grace. Other actors rise to the occasion. LL Cool J holds his own--in the same year that the regrettable Deep Blue Sea came out. And we can all hope that Aaron Eckhart will be more remembered for his work as Nick Crozier the modern offensive coordinator politicking for Pacino's D'Amato's job than he will be for his role as "Dr. Josh Keyes" in The Core. Also Jim Brown makes a wonderful foil for Pacino as his defensive coach, the two come off as old brothers in arms--which says quite a bit about Brown's acting here. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise is the Lawrence Taylor does as the aging star linebacker (obviously a big stretch). But he's seriously good. I think he does a lot more than just play himself, or even a characature of himself (despite declaring "respect will be paid" after he makes a rather pithy statement about the similarities between the two halves a football team and an SUV). Taylor puts in a lot of work, especially during the scenes when he is forced to deal with his own mortality.
And another thing: If Stone could get a solid performance out of L.T., what is the deal with Colin Farrell? (Here at The Passenger we try to celebrate at least as much as we criticize, let me add that Farrell, who in addition to Alexander, was embarrassing in Phone Booth, Daredevil, and S.W.A.T., was legit in Tigerland. I'm being serious here. I think it was made for HBO or something, but it's a solid movie.)
And also, I guess you can't write about Any Given Sunday and not mention the Ben-Hur cuts. Ok, so some people might take issue with the slightly heavy-handed approach to the theme of sports as life, life as a battle and the battle being made up a constant series of moments in which you must claw tooth and nail for "that inch." Those people are jerks. This is Oliver Stone. The score for Any Given Sunday includes only a small dose of chanting, and the lightning storms are spaced out. If you weren't willing to go on that ride, you should have thought twice about paying the fare in the first place. Also, it occurs to me that some might take further umbrage with Charlton Heston actually acting in this movie even while he appears on reel footage from Ben-Hur. Don't really know what to say to those folks, but they should probably get over it.