johnlink ranks ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (1999)

As a New England Patriots fan, this should be a wonderful couple of weeks. Instead, there has been nine days of silly talk about deflated footballs and hashtags and another cliched -gate added to a word that doesn’t need it. But, whatever. With the Super Bowl coming I thought it was time to finally see a movie that has long been on my list to see.


I watched ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (1999) on 1.26.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

Some movies age better than others. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY is a movie that predicts an NFL that needs to change. Much is made of medical ethics, of ignoring concussions, and of cutthroat player practices. These topics dominate the reality of the NFL today. But, in crafting a film about football in a fictional league, ANY GIVEN SUNDAY turns a complex web of history into a rather pedestrian story about heroes and villains with less gray area than there should be.

38 year old quarterback Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid) gets hurt. Then his backup gets hurt. Thrust into the spotlight is green QB Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx). Coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) rides the new guy’s success while knowing he wants Rooney back in the driver’s seat for the playoffs. Meanwhile, there are subplots involving owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz) trying to milk the franchise for money as she considers moving the team. Star linebacker Luther Lavay (Lawrence Taylor) is dealing with life-threatening injuries as the team doctor (James Woods) purposely ignores the problem.

D’Amato is painted as the old guard football guy who has a high level of morality. Diaz is the villainous owner who doesn’t care if her players get hurt. Woods is the doctor without a conscious. Taylor, in a somewhat autobiographical role, is a linebacker who can’t stop playing football even as it is the thing that is ruining his chance at being normal. Foxx is the most complex character. He sees himself as a champion of the black athlete, he wins, he makes stuff up as he goes, and he has a monster ego.

The biggest problem, though, with ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, is that it doesn’t get the football particularly right. A QB will say a play is ‘on two’ but then run it on the first ‘hut’. Some of the tackles are otherworldly, some of the moves are video game moves, and the Sharks are a terribly dysfunctional team that wouldn’t win more than a couple games if they operated as they do. While some of this may have felt cutting edge in the football world in 1999, this feels like low level football knowledge with the coverage we get in the middle of the 2010s. It’s hard to believe a running back (LL Cool J) openly saying that an offensive coordinator (Aaron Eckhart) is a nobody because he is only an offensive coordinator. The inclusion of media as detrimental to the game may have been revelatory in 1999, but it is old hat now. A turnover with 1:46 on the clock leaves plenty of time for a final drive, but the movie doesn’t give us any of the follow up.

Director Oliver Stone overdirects the film at times. A good scene between Pacino and Foxx in the coach’s home is trumped by unnecessary flashbacks and intercut images. Scenes depicting a Sportscenter clone feel like farce (though maybe that is the point, but its not a subtle one). Foxx’s Beamen avoids blitzes like he is a super hero. There are some nice moments as well. The cinematography in a rain soaked game is solid. The acting between Pacino and Foxx works. And, most famously, Pacino’s pre game speech before a playoff game is an all time classic sports movie moment.

But what hurts this film is a script which could learn a bit about subtlety and which needs more complexity than painting easy heroes and villains. Football is a complicated game with complicated personalities. By vilifying the doctor or the owner, ANY GIVEN SUNDAY doesn’t do itself any favors. The movie has far too few poignant movies for a film that runs over two and a half hours. It has too many exploitative bits, like an eyeball popping out of a player’s head. Literally.

On a more personal pet peeve, the concept of making a pro football movie without using any of the pro football logos or stars is fairly annoying. It may just be my own roadblock, but it is hard to get behind a movie which isn’t really about what it purports to be about.

So, in the end, ANY GIVEN SUNDAY is an inconsistent film which can never manage to cash in all of its chips. It is an entertaining enough sports film, but doesn’t belong in the pantheon of great ones.




FINAL SCORE: 5 out of 10


~ by johnlink00 on January 26, 2015.

3 Responses to “johnlink ranks ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (1999)”

  1. I read somewhere that they couldn’t use the NFL teams because the NFL wouldn’t let them. I do believe that is just one of the things that bugged me about this one. I haven’t seen it in a while. I’m not a Patriots fan, but I am also tired of deflated footballs. No one mentions that it was 28-0 in the AFC Championship game in the second half – that’s when the Patriots had their footballs inflated to their proper levels. No one wants to face facts – the Colts just didn’t show up and the Pats did.

    • You had me at ‘tired of deflated footballs’. Haha. Yeah, I can see why the NFL had no interest in letting their brand be tarnished… not by the quality of filming, but by the content therein.
      On the deflated football front…. I am so hopeful that Belichick, Brady, and Kraft have been truthful in their stern statements. If any of them are lying, it will change how I feel about them.

      • I honestly think you only have to worry about Belichick. I just can’t see Brady (who I admire and like) or Kraft up to anything sneeky.

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