#TBT Any Given Sunday: Football Is “War,” Business, & Love? (Movie Review)

“On any given Sunday, anything can happen.”

In the first five minutes, the starting and backup quarterbacks have been incapacitated, the owner is hopping mad, the coach thinks they’ve lost the season, and the ugly underbelly of the world of professional sports has raised its ugly head.

As another NFL season kicks off, Warner Bros. releases the Blu-ray Director’s Cut of Oliver Stone’s fictional take on the world of professional football through the lens of the Miami Sharks. Co-written by John Logan (Gladiator, Skyfall, The Aviator), Any Given Sunday steers us through the last few games of the season and into the playoffs. Fans of the NFL will be left wondering if the game has changed much in fifteen years (a ’80s Oakland Raiders doctor’s memoir was used as a source), concussions or not, and movie fans will marvel at the number of big-name Hollywood insiders who played a part in Stone’s ensemble film: it’s like a Gary Marshall film with a grittier reality or Draft Day with a more nuanced edge!

Al Pacino stars as veteran Tony D’Amato, shepherding his third-string quarterback, Willie Beaumen (Jamie Foxx), and star running back, J-Man Washington (LL Cool J), toward a shrinking window of playoff chances. All of this is under the watchful eyes of team execs, like the team doctor, Dr. Harvey Mandrake (James Woods), radio host Jack Rose (Jack McKinley), and the owner-by-inheritance, Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz). The cast is a blend of real-life athletes like James Brown, Lawrence Taylor, Dick Butkus, and Terrell Owens, and more actors, like Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhart, Matthew Modine, Ann Margaret, Elizabeth Berkeley, Charlton Heston, Lauren Holly, and Clifton Davis.

It’s not that hard, in a day and age when social media has taken us behind the scenes of so many sports realities that we didn’t know before, to believe that these conversations, these machinations, these broken relationships are the reality for more of our professional teams than not. We see the way that an old coach has to learn a new way the league operates, with new players and distractions; we see the pressure on the higher ups to deliver based on television and public support. Since the release of AGS in 1999, how many coaches have been arrested for prostitution? How many of the players have come forward with injuries that they covered or that physicians associated with the team medicated them for instead of fixing them? How many have been arrested for illicit drug use? And of course, from the business side, the treatment of the star quarterback was all but echoed in the relationship between the Miami Dolphins and Dan Marino less than a year after the film came out…

Ultimately, football fans will dig this flick- it makes a great watch on a non-football day (which are down to Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays!) and it serves as a parable to life. How far would you go to get what you want? What would you dream, and what would you sacrifice? If it meant sacrificing your morals, your health, your relationships, or your future, would you still do it? If it meant losing yourself, would it be worth it? Jesus asks in Mark 8:36, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” It’s the question of the film, and every major character has to ask it at some point.

Many players and coaches would answer this way: it’s only in the moment, in the game, that matters.

With this release, you can get the vibe from Stone’s take, thanks to his commentary (along with Foxx’s), plus the “Full Contact” making-of featurette. Several NFL lifers, Marshall Faulk and Willie McGinest, former 49ers and Lions coach Steve Mariucci, and Dallas Cowboys owner (and meddler) Jerry Jones speak to the reality of the film’s depiction of the league in “Anything Can Happen.” But there are also some lighter pieces, too: the gag reel, the music videos by LL Cool J and Foxx, the outtakes, and more. 

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About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at ChristianCinema.com, Cinapse.co, and the brand new ScreenFish.net.
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