For those who imagined a poetic meditation on gridiron and pigskin when they heard Oliver Stone was directing an homage to football called Any Given Sunday, they got it all wrong. As irritatingly loud and in-your-face as his Natural Born Killers was provocative and unsettling, Stone's opus, epic in length rather than quality, gives the sport a video-game makeover -- fast and totally artificial. Although subtlety was certainly not Stone's priority as he charted a tumultuous season in the history of the fictitious Miami Sharks, the film's constant shouting quickly becomes abrasive. Everyone -- from Cameron Diaz's banshee of an owner to Al Pacino's used-up coach decked out in ragged Armani suits -- amps up his or her performance to compete with Stone's fast edits and dizzying camera work. But perhaps the most distracting elements to ring false are the details of the games, none of whose outcomes are in doubt. The throws, catches, and tackles all have a scripted quality, with none of the messiness that makes the sport so unpredictable and enduring. Plus, the production crew couldn't have been more clueless about how to dress its imaginary teams -- the uniforms are more putridly colored than the worst the 1970s had to offer, with various shades of yellow and brown sharing the same shirts and helmets. The film's saving grace is its occasional astute observations about the rap-star glamour that now pervades the sport, with modern athletes bred to seek money and individual glory before team success. Stone is usually at his most effective when professorial, but these moments are drowned out in a sea of visual gimmickry that the director has done better in almost any of his other films.
by Derek Armstrong review