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ANY GIVEN SUNDAY

by: Michael Dequina

Any Given Sunday is a guy's film. And I say that not because it's a football film (though that does play a major part) but because it's an Oliver Stone football film--a fact that gives one an idea of how testosterone-happy this gridiron saga is.

But let this be said: I enjoyed this film. Maybe it's the testosterone running through my own veins, but it's hard not to get adrenalized by the bonecrunching football action Stone stages with maximum intensity. He has been criticized with being a bit too busy with the camera, shooting it so close and cutting so quickly that often the exact plays are unclear. That complaint is understandable, but Stone's approach brings the audience into the game like no other film, giving viewers perhaps the closest cinematic approximation of the chaotic experience on the field.

While there is plenty of football sequences in the film, there is a reason why this film clocks in at close to three hours, and that is the plot--which, quite simply, there is too much of. Stone, along with writing collaborator John Logan, want to give an exhaustive look at just about every aspect of professional football. In addition to the usual win/loss issue--which, as the film opens, is gradually falling less in favor of the Miami Sharks' longtime coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino)--there's the matter of the up-and-coming hotshot quarterback Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), who is called on to replace reliable veteran Cap (Dennis Quaid) who is sidelined with an injury. That indirectly links to the issue of rushing injured players' rehabiliation, which the team orthopedist (James Woods) has no qualms about but his intern (Matthew Modine) does. Willie's showboating and penchant for calling his own plays puts him at odds with his teammates (including one, played by LL Cool J, with an eye to up his own endorsement stock) and especially Tony, who, in turn, has an even more heated battle of wills going on with Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), the Sharks' ballbusting owner.

There are even other, smaller concerns on Stone's mind, but those cannot help but get lost in the shadow of the Tony-Willie and Tony-Christina conflicts. Granted, these threads are given the bulk of the screen time, but even if they did not, the forceful performances would have demanded attention. That comment is hardly surprising in the context of acting reliables such as Diaz--who, in five short years, has carved out quite an impressively eclectic career for herself--and Pacino, but the real revelation is Foxx, best known for his television comedy work. Surprisingly, the comic material he's called on to do doesn't work (though that's the fault of the script, which saddles him with a silly running gag where he vomits on the field during every game), but he impresses everywhere else. Not only does the convince on the athletic end of his duties, he also holds his own against Pacino in one particularly memorable verbal confrontation. (One can only be glad that the role's original portrayer, rap impresario Sean "Puffy" Combs, had to back out before filming began.)

Most of the actresses in Any Given Sunday do nothing here that would tarnish their reputations, but one cannot help but notice the glaring negativity of the female characters in the film. Christina is a strong, independent woman; but not only is she a viper, but she's portrayed as being in over her head in such a male-driven business. Christina's mother (Ann-Margret) is in an alcoholic daze for the entire film. In one scene, Cap's seemingly supportive wife (Lauren Holly) is revealed to have a dark side--only to have that trait magically disappear for the rest of the film, making her character turn that much more arbitrary. Tony sometimes enlists the services of a whore, who is played, appropriately enough, by Showgirls slut Elizabeth Berkley. The one female character that appears to have some virtue is Willie's long-suffering girlfriend (Lela Roch

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