Blu-ray Review: ANY GIVEN SUNDAY

Warner Home Video

Release date: Jan 27, 2009
MSRP: $28.99

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, James Woods, Aaron Eckhardt, L.L. Cool J, Lawrence Taylor

When Oliver Stone announced plans to do a film on professional football, the powers that be in the Gridiron world almost certainly let out a collective “oh shit” for fear that the controversial director would go after their beloved sport like a pit bull on a child’s arm.

Did that happen?

Yes and no.

Any Given Sunday certainly does head into the sport’s closets, pulling out many of it’s skeletons. It looks at the money games, the drugs, ego, sex and greed that have become a very real part of the world of professional football, but it also displays a love and appreciation of the sport.

Al Pacino stars as Tony D’Amato a legendary coach that is now coming under fire, with suggestions that the sport as passed him by. The local sports writers question his place in the modern game and the current owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), the daughter of the previous owner, wants her club to reflect the modern generation and even potential move to a more apply locale.

When veteran quarterback Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid) is injured, third stringer Willie Beaman (Jamie Fox) is thrust into the spotlight. A couple flashy plays later, Willie is the talk of the town and is experiencing fame and fortune like he has never seen before. Not surprisingly, his head swells amidst the adoration of the sports writers, fans and ladies.

Those are the characters at the fore front of the film, but the screen is filled with many other compelling characters, Washington (L.L. Cool J) is the running back that is as interested in collecting bonuses as he is yards, Dr. Harvey Mandrake (James Woods) the team doctor that struggles with the moral issues of enabling questionable players to head back onto the field as a result of pressure from not only those players, but the upper management as well, and Shark Lavay (Lawrence Taylor), the battered heart of the team’s defense.

Stone does a damn good job here. That the characters are compelling should come as a shock to no one, but the football scenes are breathtaking! Stone delivers footage that looks like the real thing.

The loaded cast does an excellent job. Jamie Fox delivers a fine performance in his first real dramatic and Cameron Diaz really shines here. One expects James Woods and Al Pacino to deliver the goods, but Diaz? In her confrontations with Pacino, she holds her own, making those scenes explosive.

AGS does stumble on occasion, as it attempts to tackle virtually every possible aspect of the game and gets bogged down as a result. Stone wants to talk about so many different things, that you start to become numb after a while.

Had the film been more streamlined, it would have been a littl more effective.

Video:
Visually Any Given Sunday is a mixed bag. The film is presented in 1080p, with a VC-1 encode, and a 2.35:1 ratio. The camera work is outstanding, and the game footage is breathtaking. The colors are crisp (the grass and uniforms really pop) and the contrast is excellent. Unfortunately there is print damage that is noticeable, as is some digital noise. While the cinematography is highlighted by the HD presentation, so too are the flaws. I am surprised they could not find a better print to use for this transfer.

Audio:
I can’t think of a single negative thing to say on this front, the TrueHD 5.1 track is outstanding. It is crystal clear and features an excellent mix. Everything sounds just fine, with nothing being muscled out. When I originally watched it, I noticed the strong use of music, that becomes far more evident here. The rock and rap really add something special to Any Given Sunday. Subtitles are offered in English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish. Stone must be more popular overseas than I would have imagined. There are also 5.1 Dolby tracks for Italian, German, Spanish and French.

Extras:
We are offered two commentary tracks, one of Director Stone and one with actor Jamie Fox. Stone gives a mellow, educational narration. I swear, this track could be considered a lecture from Intro to Film. As a total film geek, I found this quite interesting. Casual viewers may not get as much out of the Stone track. For those, I recommend the Fox one. Jamie is fun and offers anecdotes with a blend of humor.

We are also given Fox’s screen test, this comes in at around seven minutes. It shows some home footage of him displaying his physical skills and doing a reading. This was one of his first dramatic roles, it is interesting to watch him before he became more polished.

Full Contact: the making of Any Given Sunday was made for HBO and runs around 27 minutes. Your standard BTS piece, but is still worth watching. You get to see just how much testosterone was flying around on the set. Stone talks about his motivation for making this film.

The deleted scenes are actually pretty good. This is rather scary considering how long the film is to begin with. It looks like Stone could have made this sucker three hours and still had a solid film.

There are also a gag reel, some instant replay footage of football scenes, music videos, some picture galleries and a theatrical trailer.

AGS is a solid film that looks at the world of professional football with an unblinking eye, while not removing all of the joy of the game. As this is the HD version, it is a pity they could not have cleaned up the print a bit more, but the overall quality is still good. An impressive cast and compelling story make this a film that can be enjoyed by not only sports buffs, but the general public as well. Just don’t come looking for a happy, go-lucky film, as Stone offers us a very gritty look at the sport.

Order the Any Given Sunday Blu-ray from Amazon.
Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.