Any Given Sunday (1999)

Al Pacino

Dodgy game action sequences aside, Oliver Stone’s ode to sports drama and hedonism is an editing tour de force, there’s no denying. But does it deserve to be praised as genre defining, is the question. In a film that covers possibly all the dynamics and forces exerted on a modern sports franchise (results, results, results) Any Given Sunday truly is an all encompassing portrayal, second only to HBO’s Hard Knocks in terms of dramatized realism. It’s no NFL Films and he’s no Sabol. He does get a few things right — mainly how the black athlete is constantly under threat of the diva affliction. Yes, the ultimate team sport can be an hotbed for elitist, “me first” syndrome. Yet given that football often provides a fitting microcosm of American ethos, coupled with America’s discomfort with what it deems a checkered past, the NFL would follow suit and deny Stone use of any likeness to the real thing in his film. That’s right, Any Given Sunday is a throwback to a time when purveyors of hard hits freely and openly pulled groupies on the road. I suppose one of the film’s excesses (two kinds of which exist but we’ll only concern ourselves with one at a time) proved problematic for the NFL to lend (associate) its image to (with) even then, at the time of its release. Despite that, for large stretches, the film looks and sounds great. It suffers from inconsistencies like the aforementioned arcadey sequences, and terrible uniforms. Hence we join the 7-4 Miami Sharks midseason in the fictional AFFA league. But the film is at its strongest when the chaotic, off-the-field happenings and shenanigans are laid bare. But right before we fully dive in, the top two choices at QB in their depth chart get seriously injured in quick succession, with an unproven prospect sitting next line. Continue reading