Oh yeah, I'm so surprised it took them so long to get Oliver Stone to do a sports film, seeing as how he really does fit him. Actually, I'm not really being all that sarcastic, because if anyone can make sports on film exciting, then you better believe that Stone Cold Oliver and his craziness can. Well, I say that, but I actually was going into this film a bit dubious that Oliver Stone could make it all that exciting, for although he made an over three-and-a-half-hour-long epic about Kevin Costner walking around and talking to people about John F. Kennedy exciting, football is an entirely different story and Oliver Stone is no magician. No, while I'm not interested in sports, football isn't all that boring (Lord knows it's no baseball), though you wouldn't be able to figure that out based on certain other football films, because making slow films about sports is as much of a pastime as sports like these themselves. I don't know, maybe the reason why this film and "JFK" were so exciting is because of the star-studded casts, because as we all know, a star cast can go a long way... or at least when they're backed up by a blaring soundtrack, relentlessly vulgar dialogue and camera operators who love crazy angles almost as much as the editor loves cutting back and forth between the aforementioned crazy angles over and over again, and that's good, because we can't afford to be bored when dealing with films this long. I love how the director's cut to this film is actually almost 15 minutes tighter than the theatrical cut (Speaking of Al Pacino, the director's cut to "Revolution" didn't cut that much excess material, though it probably should have), and yet, it's still too long. Eh, I don't mind too much, because I'm still "having a good time lazing to this sunday afternoon" (What do you say people? Biggest stretch of a reference to Queen songs ever?), yet it's still not quite "JFK", not just in runtime, but in quality, and for quite a few reasons.
Again, this film isn't as lengthy as "JFK", and lord knows it holds the potential to be more eventful, yet in execution, this film sometimes forces its runtime of two-and-a-half hour, or in the case of the... theatrical cut (Huh, I'm so used to saying director's cut or something), 160-something minutes, through excessive repetition and even some expendable material, and after a while, the film slows to a crawl and it becomes hard to pay attention, and this film isn't even mildly boring. However, within the film's not being boring surprisingly lays not just any other flaw, but one of the absolute biggest flaws, and one that can be found in just about every Oliver Stone film: overstylizing, which certainly wouldn't fit this film if it was at a minimum, let alone at near-maximum prevalence. Now, this film still isn't quite "Natural Born Killers" overstylized (I don't know what is), yet it surprisingly stands as one of Oliver Stone's most overstylized films, not necessarily throwing crazy imagery at you relentlessly, but going tainted by overemphasized cinematography, as well as wildly frenetic overediting that really does help in knocking you out of the film a bit, particularly during the dialogue pieces, which are made more overwhemling by sound design that is also wildly overstylized, to the point of occasionally rendering dialogue borderline incomprehensible, or at least until someone nearly throws his or her voice out shouting, or in other words, during every second or third dialogue piece. Still, the film's bluntness doesn't just end with the noisiness, because just when you thought that Oliver Stone couldn't get any more unsubtle with his critiques, he finds himself presented with a topic that's a bit hard to deconstruct, as made obvious by Stone's palpable stretching to make such a deconstruction. The film "tackles" (Football pun intended) the flaws of the American sports industry and overall culture, and Oliver Stone isn't about to let you forget that, blatantly hucking his messages at you with restless intensity that is often passable, sometimes overbearing and consistently present, thus diluting the film's substance, which in turns actually dilutes the messages that the film tries so hard press on you. The film is bloated, overstylized, noisy and unsubtle, same as any given Oliver Stone film (See what I did there?), yet those flaws are even more intense here, and for goodness sakes, this is a blasted football film, so on top of often being too much, the lengthiness, stylizing and blatantness doesn't really fit, thus making for a film that's all over the place, but eventually comes back to simply not striking as deeply as it should. However, with all of my problems with Oliver Stone - of which, there are many -, through all of his filmmaking faults... and being just so blasted left wing, he's still a considerably talented director, and further proves that with a film that ultimately transcends its many faults to stand as a really worthwhile watch, or if nothing else, mostly enjoyably stylish effort.
Before Ron Howard enslaved him, cinematographer Salvatore Tatino caught his big break shooting for this film, and doing a pretty fine job of it, for although Stone is overemphatic about Tatino's contributions to the point of occasionally rendering the film more style than substance, the photography on this film boasts that good old fashion Oliver Stone handsome haziness that's not terribly stellar, but catches your eye and breathes life into this film, much like most every other piece of style within this film. Again, the film is excessively overstylized, yet more often than not, the style really does amplify the engagement value of the film, with most great frenetic editing (Even if a couple of pieces of dialogue cut unevenly) giving the film a lot of flashiness and intense sound design giving the film a lot of pump, and when that style comes into play on the field, the result is some top-notch football sequences, which isn't to say that all of this style keeps the film from dulling out when our players take a break from bashing into each other. Again, the film is overwhelmingly lengthy and overstylized at points, yet make no mistake, this film is among the handful of wildly entertaining sports films, with consistent flare and even a soundtrack that's pretty hit-or-miss (The many then-contemporary mainstream '90s songs and "original" rap songs are, of course, terrible), but really hits hard when it does hit, really sparking a lot of fun energy in the film, sometimes too much so, but generally to where you'd be hard pressed to not want to stick with the film, as it is so rewarding as, if nothing else, pure entertainment. Still, that's not the only thing that Oliver Stone delivers on, because although he is such a messy filmmaker, especially here, when he hits, he cuts deep, and sure enough, there are quite a few potently well-directed moments in this film, as Stone will sometimes pull back to deliver on a degree of provocative messaging, as well as a few poignant moments of depth that really do bring this story to life. Sure, as much as I complain about sports films, plenty of them do have strong stories, and this film has a really strong one that is generally betrayed by the shortcomings of the execution, yet is generally played up pretty sharply, with plenty of style and some depth that will occasionally border on epic, and for that, credit has to go out to Oliver Stone for his extremely flawed, yet ultimately rewarding and inspired direction, as well as to the talents within this star-studded cast, or at least most of them. I would consider Cameron Diaz a fair actress, as well as not even terrible in this film, though she still turns in a certainly improvable performance with limited notes and moments of overacting, yet I still stand by statement that it is not a terrible performance, as Diaz, well, doesn't really slip up too much, and also wears a certain charisma, though one that is easily overpowered by every other talent in this mammoth star cast, with such cast members as Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, Jim Brown, John C. McGinley and even a cameoing (Is that even a word?), show-stealing Charlton Heston delivering on colorful charm, made all the sweeter by fine chemistry that sells you on our characters and their relationships, making each and every one of them, to a fair extent, reasonably compelling. Now, with all of my praising, the film is much too faulty to keep consistent as enjoyable, yet the fact of the matter is that the film does still have plenty to praise, and that's enough for it to keep you going and enjoying yourself through thick and then, and at the end of the day, that leaves this film to, like the football players it studies, to go long... or far, or the distance, or whatever it is they say in football.
At the end of the sunday, or whatever day of the week you watch this, a promising project goes tainted by common Oliver Stone faults at pretty high intensity, whether it be the overlong runtime, or overstylzing, or noisiness, or simply the profound lack of subtlety that leaves the film's messages to bear down and intensify the overall overbearingness of the film, until by the end, it fails to make the touchdown it should have, yet in spite of that, this film still scores pretty big, boasting fine style - often overblown though, it may be - and livliness to spark consistent and wild entertainment value, while Oliver Stone establishes many a high, if not golden moment of effectiveness, really sold by the massive collection of charismatic performances within the star-studded cast, held together by razor-sharp chemistry, thus leaving "Any Given Sunday" to play an imperfect game, yet one that's still lively, generally interesting and ultimately rewarding enough to really win you over through thick and then.
3/5 - Good