Football has long been the inspiration for some of Hollywood’s finest and most horrific movies. Throughout the offseason, The Go Route contributing writer Brendan O’Hare will recap some of these football-related films. Today, we start with Any Given Sunday.
The front cover of Any Given Sunday includes what can only be described as a football pentagram.
There’s an all-yellow football player laying on top of a red circle, which is supposed to signify something, but I’m not sure what. Maybe Satan?
Then there is the six featured cast members’ heads at the top, with their names below them. LL Cool J is inexplicably one of these faces gracing the upper portion of the poster, seemingly damning any hopes of the movie with his FUBU and thousand-yard gawk.
The tagline: Life is a contact sport. WHAP. It seems like more of a warning label than anything else. Warning: Life is a contact sport, do not go outside between the hours of 9 p.m.-6 a.m. in this neighborhood.
The director of this film is Oliver Stone, who is one of cinema’s more rational thinkers. Hah, I’m just kidding. If this movie sucks, does he think al Qaeda deserves to blow up buildings? The front cover of my DVD says this film is “as good as movies get,” and it was made in 1999, so we can only assume 9/11 was NOT Stone’s fault. He’s an American hero.
The movie starts with a Vince Lombardi paragraph, lightning and tribal music in the background. It really sets the stage for the “football as WAR” allegories that are bound to come. Then a game starts, and everything is in slow motion.
I looked down at the DVD box and saw the movie is 156 minutes long. What the hell? Oliver Stone has two-and-a-half hours to devote to a fake football league? UGH.
The opening sequence is never played in real time, and what I mean by that is the whole scene is an amalgam of fast motion and slow motion, giving the viewer the feeling their riding a malfunctioning roller coaster blindfolded.
Once this lets up for five seconds, we see Dennis Quaid, some team’s starting quarterback, get sandwiched by two defensive players. The announcer claims Quaid is “the 38-year-old star,” but Quaid looks like the 45-year-old southern mechanic he usually does. So it’s immediately unrealistic.
Quick shot to Cameron Diaz in an owner’s box, going into “concerned” mode. Quick shot to Al Pacino, who looks like a drunken Tony Montana wax figure.
One can only assume these three are important, and they are all a part of some team called the Miami Sharks belonging to a professional football league abbreviated as AFFA (not ABBA, as I thought for an hour. Big disappointment. Hooray for clarity).
Quaid leaves the field claiming he broke his back and he can’t breathe and waaaaah, but leaves without a stretcher. Then someone says “Any Given Sunday,” which is the title. Someone says the title of the movie within the first five minutes.
So Quaid is now gone, and the second-string quarterback gets cramps or something, so Jamie Foxx is called upon. He’s on the bench eating chips and reading a goddamn newspaper.
Why not just have him in a hot tub, Stone? We get it, he’s unprepared to be playing. Foxx (named Willie Beamen. I’m calling everyone by their real names, because I never really learned them in the movie. Whether this is the movie's or my own fault is up to the reader to decide) goes out to the huddle and promptly throws up, and everybody somehow sees this.
Like, everyone in the stadium is a witness to the puke caused by eating chips and probably newspaper just moments before. Foxx is scared, putting his hands up the right guard’s ass by mistake (sure), and is fumbling all over the place and just playing like crap.
I haven’t even mentioned the football sequences, which have taken up a major part of this long first sequence. It’s like a jittery kid playing with iMovie. No cut lingers for more than five seconds before the camera goes to something else. If I had a weak stomach, I’d have vomited four or five times.
Halftime arrives, and we meet James Woods, who is playing some kind of doctor/orthopedist? I’m not sure, but it doesn’t seem like he warrants a spot on the front cover of this DVD. Piss off J-Woods, stars only.
Pacino then gives the first of 500 speeches in this movie and sounds like he’s doing some kind of impersonation. I can’t put my finger on who. A Jewish man? I don’t know.
Anyway, he motivates Foxx enough to not suck too greatly in the second half, and he ends up making the game respectable. The game ends with the opposing coach mouthing “IN YOUR FACE” in slow motion like some petulant child. Jesus.
We then see Drew Rosenhaus as an analyst recapping the Sharks’ loss, ensuring that there are professions he would be more annoying in.
Pacino goes to a bar to celebrate his loss and is approached by the girl who played Jessie on Saved By the Bell. This movie was made in the 1990s, so any implication that the broken Pacino is “desirable” is squashed with the remembrance that every character Elizabeth Brinkley played during this decade was a prostitute. Pacino blows her off for some reason.
Cameron Diaz, who at this point I realized was the owner of the Sharks, is trying to move the team to L.A. since Miami is a crappy market for a professional sports franchise due to no one caring. Even in this horrible reality, Los Angeles can’t get a professional football team.
Someone says "Any Given Sunday" a second time. Diaz talks to Pacino and says he has no intensity. Blah, blah, blah, cool it Cam’ron. Does Pacino look like he gives a crap? He’s spending most of his time working on some kind of accent, possibly Italian.
Pacino has no intensity, because football, along with life, is changing and becoming modern, and Pacino is stuck in the past. “Football is played in the field, not in the press boxes” he stupidly says after ignoring his coordinators during a loss.
It’s the new versus old debate—Moneyball, but through the lazy eye of Oliver Stone. “F--k the economics” says Pacino. Shut up, Pacino.
The second game starts, and the Sharks are playing a team with a coach who looks exactly like Tom Landry.
Every player looks juiced to the nines, but the coach still looks like he is from the 1960s. Foxx is not starting for some reason, despite playing relatively well in the previous game. He complains to Pacino using the same mumbling ranting voice he used in The Soloist, so he is rightfully ignored.
When he gets in the game after Pacino realizes the second-string quarterback is worthless, Foxx tears it up in spite of his carrying the ball like a place-kicker. The two quarters Foxx has played gives him enough confidence to go from puking to changing plays in the huddle.
He refuses to give the ball to LL Cool J, who is the running back, for reasons that include LL looking like an Oakland Raiders fan with his eye-black. This makes LL sad and pouty, then a montage starring the raps of DMX comes on, and I am happy.
If Lawrence Taylor could rap, he’d sound like DMX. Speaking of Taylor, he plays a linebacker who is nearing the end of his career but is still excellent, kind of like Ray Lewis. His name is Shark, just like the team name. This movie is absurd.
There is no real beginning to this movie, the viewer just kind of gets caught in the middle of cocaine football. There are quick cuts and changing colors galore, and the viewer never really knows why they are there.
Foxx ends up playing well, and the Sharks win, causing a sportswriter played by John C. McGinley to call Foxx “a gladiator poet,” because that’s how normal people describe things. McGinley’s character is a combination of a Jim Rome-style talk show host and a Grantland Rice-style aggrandizer. Just like real journalists.
A random party occurs to celebrate the win, and players dance and mingle and talk and do cocaine and cheat on their wives. Cameron Diaz takes the disgruntled, mistreated offensive coordinator aside (who is still mad about Pacino ignoring him) and says Pacino’s ass is gone after the season because he sucks. Yes. He does suck.
Pacino gets drunk at the party and rants about “know-it-all ESPN analysts.” Pacino is always drunk it seems, but he makes more sense drunk than sober.
Foxx begins to show signs of a big head, when he says “Don’t let my success go to your head, bitch” to his girlfriend. Sheesh. That was mean.
A fight happens, we see James Woods creepily hit on cheerleaders, LL Cool J is eternally mad at something, then the third game in the Foxx era starts. At what point in the season is this? We never find out.
Foxx plays like a 10-year-old plays Madden—running everywhere, only throwing deep passes—just playing like an unaware ass. The Sharks win again, but LL is mad because he’s not getting enough touches.
LL thinks his 2,000-yard bonus is still within reach, which is absurd because he literally hasn’t touched the ball once this whole movie. He gets Quaid (who has miraculously almost returned to full health) on his side.
Pacino rightfully ignored their complaints, because they are stupid gripes coming during the fact of a winning streak. The next scene has Foxx shooting a music video and on the cover of magazines, because apparently two-and-a-half games is enough to turn one into a superstar.
Pacino notices Foxx’s increasing narcissism and calls Foxx in for this bizarre conversation at his house the next day. Foxx spends the night by questioning the lack of black coaches and owners, and Pacino prepares by falling in love with his prostitute. Whatever works, I guess.
Foxx walks into Pacino’s house the next day and sees Ben-Hur on TV, and calls the characters “the gladiators of their day.” Really? They were actually gladiators.
Then the two engage in deep conversation about legacies and such, but the scene is constantly going back and forth between those two, scenes from Ben-Hur and clouds (literally moving images of clouds) like some Terrence Malick rip-off.
I lost focus immediately, only returning when Foxx talked about the corruption of the NCAA, and how taking a suit from a booster cost him six rounds in the draft. Pacino is stunned by Foxx’s actions, as he's stunned by all young people who aren’t his prostitute. The meeting ends poorly with the two men mad at each other. Oh, wah.
Foxx celebrates the awkward encounter by going to a cocaine/blowjob party at Lawrence Taylor’s house, which may or may not have been stock footage from the 1980s.
Foxx starts bad-mouthing the Taylor-led defense, so Taylor saws Foxx’s car in half. Everyone is now mad at Foxx’s arrogance, and the cinematographer snorted some of Taylor’s cocaine, as at one point seven screens are onscreen at once.
Game 4 begins in a poorly lit monsoon, and no one will block for poor Foxx. They lose, they don’t get home-field advantage and LL and Foxx fight each other in the showers. Not as sexual as one would imagine.
Pacino breaks up the fight within seconds, due to him probably hiding in the rafters. The locker room is now divided, which would be more important if I actually cared about anyone in the movie. The only cool one is Cameron Diaz, and she is constantly trying to keep track of her drunken mother and fight off sexism. Can’t she just shine? Oh well.
The best part of the movie occurs when Pacino lets a concussed Taylor play due to the actions of a corrupt James Woods who isn’t disclosing information, and Pacino calls him out. Woods says “long ago (the players) made that choice.” The choice, of course, that they decided a long time ago is that they would let their bodies decay at the expense of football, an interesting commentary, especially today.
Woods gets fired due to his lack of morals, even though Pacino is a drunken man who likes prostitutes and never talks to his children.
Pacino then visits Dennis Quaid at his house and tries to get him to play. “You just need the needle” Pacino says, completely contradicting his irate firing of Woods from before. He ignores Quaid who is listing his endless injuries and pleas to just let him retire, saying “All these things you’re saying aren’t real.” Uh, Al, he’s listing injuries. They are real.
Quaid’s wife won’t stand for any of this girly talk, and she slaps him. Damn she’s mean, and Quaid will play the playoff game.
Meanwhile, Pacino is meeting with Diaz and complaining about how he can’t control Foxx. Diaz says he should be able to because—well, he should, and Pacino rants about Diaz is worse then her father.
This is all so dumb and so irrelevant to everything, even when Diaz almost makes Pacino cry when she says her father gave her the management position, not him. Pacino waddles back to wherever he lives, rips up his prostitute’s phone number, then stares at a picture of his children. This movie is so long, and it’s only been four games.
Before the playoff game, Pacino apologizes to McGinley, whom he had shoved a la Kenny Rogers, and Taylor gets lots of cortisone shots. Then comes the famous speech by Pacino, that everyone thinks is so great and motivational but I hate, mainly because all it is is Pacino talking about his god-awful life and how cool inches are and how the metric system is bullshit. I hope they lose by 100.
The real reason for this speech being so horrible is that the game starts with the opposing team returning the kick back for a touchdown. HAHAHA. How great can a speech be if that happened?
The opposing team is called the Knights, and they have Illuminati logos. I really hope they win. Quaid is playing his heart out, which doesn’t matter because the Sharks are losing, and he scores on a play similar to John Elway’s famous Super Bowl dive. This causes him to start seeing things and freaking out.
Meanwhile, LL Cool J hasn’t gotten the ball once and is happier than ever. What a jerk.
There’s a meaningless fight between Diaz and Pacino about which quarterback should play the second half—meaningless because Pacino agrees with her that Foxx should play, but they fight anyway. Ugh. Just shut the hell up, both of you.
The second half starts, some guy loses his eye, everyone is friends again. Foxx leads the Sharks back because, unlike Quaid, he doesn’t suck. The Sharks then face an important 4th-and-1 on defense, which Taylor stops but only at the expense of being taken off the field probably paralyzed.
We never find out what happens to him, mainly because we don’t care. He gets some kind of monetary bonus for making the tackle, and he's smiling and losing spinal fluid. What’s the message here?
Foxx pukes again, somehow makes up with Pacino after telling him how horrible his jambalaya is, then wins the game by jumping over all 21 players on the field. Everyone loses their mind and forgets this is only the first round of the playoffs.
Hours later, the field empties and Pacino and Foxx are walking on the field. Pacino says “Any Given Sunday” because otherwise he’d be shot, and they once again talk about youth and growing up. Blah blah blah.
The movie ends except for some unimportant credits (Pacino is leaving the Sharks to coach an expansion team and is bringing Foxx with him for a sequel that never happens). Someone says "Any Given Sunday" for a fourth time, the movie ends and my eyes glaze over.
This movie wasn’t horrible, but is so damn long and cliched it gets grating. Also, all football scenes were shot under the influence of psychedelic drugs. The movie briefly talks about the concussion problem and racism in management, and it gives Jim Brown a chance to yell constantly, which isn’t a bad thing.
If I had to give it a grade, I’d give it two-and-a-half out of five LL Cool J FUBU’s.