As another football season kicks off this week, it seems appropriate that Warner Brothers should release a 15th anniversary edition of Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday. Violent and in-your-face, this is a look at professional football as only Oliver Stone could present it. Unapologetically loud, Stone uses every cinematic trick in the book to draw viewers in. For football fans, we are taken right down on the mud soaked fields into the center of the huddles; the crunch of body against body reverberating. For non sports fans, Any Given Sunday features convincing performances by a solid cast.
The Miami Sharks (the NFL declined to participate in the film) have hit the skids. A four game losing streak is made worse when aging quarterback Jack “Cap” Rooney (Dennis Quaid) is sidelined by a brutal hit (and the backup quarterback also gets knocked out of action). Veteran coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) is forced to call on third-string quarterback Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx). After some advice from D’Amato and vomiting to calm his nerves, Beamen finds his focus and helps to deliver a string of wins, giving the team a legitimate chance at the playoffs. With Beamen suddenly a star, D’Amato must cope, not only with his quarterback’s raging ego and disregard for his teammates, but an aggressive new owner (Cameron Diaz) who has threatened to fire him if he doesn’t produce results. In the midst of all this, the beleaguered coach must make a series of difficult decisions, deal with an unethical physician (James Woods), keep his star running back (LL Cool J) happy and navigate his own complicated personal life.
Oliver Stone, who won his first Oscar in 1979 for his adaptation of Midnight Express, has always had a good ear for dialogue and an eye for detail. Literally placing the camera in the middle of the in-game action gives Any Given Sunday a realistic feel that no football movie before or since, has been able to capture. I can only speak as someone who has watched football every Sunday for years, but everyone, from the fans, to the announcers to the players, seemed to act as we might expect them to do. Though I have to admit, Oliver Stone’s cameo as a football announcer just doesn’t fit somehow. He should have sat this one out.
Any Given Sunday has a large cast and numerous cameos by well known names and football greats. Nonetheless, a couple of performances do manage to standout. Al Pacino was perfect for the role of the grizzled, veteran coach. Pacino has proven he’s at his best when playing driven, intense men and Tony D’Amato allows him to chew up scenery at nearly every turn. Cameron Diaz is fairly convincing as a modern day owner, for whom money and winning is the bottom line.
Dennis Quaid dies well as the aging, superstar quarterback who must face the fact that the only life he has known is just about over. On the other end of the spectrum, Jamie Foxx shows flashes of the acting skill that would him an Oscar a few years later, for Ray. A quarterback who is metaphorically given ‘the keys to the kingdom’ overnight’ he is forced to learn some tough lessons before coming back down to reality. The rest of the big name actors don’t get much to work with. LL Cool J, Lauren Holly, Ann-Margaret, Charlton Heston (in no more than a cameo), are welcome, but are largely wasted. Surprisingly, two real-life football players, Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor, fit in very well.
Any Given Sunday likely won’t appeal to everyone. I’m the first to admit that none of the characters are particularly likeable and the on field action is brutal and chaotic. However, anyone looking for a football movie that genuinely tries to examine the ins and outs of the sport, should look no farther than this one.
Presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, this transfer appears to be identical to the one used on the 2009 Blu-ray release. Colors look bright and vibrant throughout and skin tones have a decidedly lifelike appearance. Despite occasional contrast inconsistencies, bright skies look nice against muddy fields, etc. While the occasional soft shot does creep in, textures are fairly crisp and backgrounds maintain nicely defined edges. While not perfect, fans should be very pleased with this transfer.
Rather than the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix featured on the 2009 Blu-ray, the 15th Anniversary Edition BD includes a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout, with the exception of a few lines, muddied by heavy effects. Since most of those issues happen on field, it’s safe to assume that it has to do with the filmmaker’s original sound design. Low-end extension is strong and aggressive during livelier scenes, but tends to drop out a bit during quieter ones. The same is true for the rear speakers, which means a slightly uneven acoustic experience. Directionality is spot on and pans are smooth. All and all, this is an enveloping experience that should leave most fans very pleased.
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Italian, Italian SDH, Korean, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles are included.
The following special features are available:
- Audio Commentary with Director Oliver Stone: Stone usually delivers an informative commentary and he does so here. Detailed and engaging, he dissects the film scene by scene, discussing the shooting process and the various hurdles they faced. He provides in depth information on the cast and their performances and more.
- Audio Commentary with Actor Jamie Foxx: Foxx discusses his character, the experience of working with Oliver Stone and the other actors, the film’s style and reception. While Foxx isn’t particularly exciting in his delivery, he does manage to provide some interesting information.
- NEW! Any Given Sunday: Anything Can Happen (HD, 29:43) In this newly produced retrospective, Oliver Stone, NFL stars Marshall Faulk and Willie McGinest, 49ers coach Steve Mariucci, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and author Anthony L. Gargano look back at the movie, discuss its authenticity, themes and connections to the modern NFL and why many players consider it their favorite film about football.
- Full Contact: The Making of Any Given Sunday (SD, 27:05) In this HBO First Look Special, we are given film clips, behind-the-scenes footage and various interviews with cast and crew.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (SD, 32:38) Along with the scenes that were reincorporated into the Director’s Cut of the film, Any Given Sunday also includes fourteen deleted and extended scenes. Each scene also includes optional commentary with director Oliver Stone.
- Music Videos (SD) Music videos for LL Cool J’s Shut Em Down and Jamie Foxx’s My Name is Willie and Any Given Sunday.
- Audition & Screen Tests (SD, 6:46) Audition and screen test for Jamie Foxx.
- Gag Reel (SD, 3:52) Standard flubs and cut-ups.
- Football and Landscape Outtakes (SD, 11:42) A sample of the second unity footage and on-field plays that didn’t make it into the film.
- Instant Replay (HD, 15:42) Select the on-field scenes.
- Production Stills and Advertising Gallery: Two galleries are available that contain more than 140 photos, images, and marketing pieces.
- Theatrical Trailer
- DVD of the Film’s Theatrical Cut.