Any Given Sunday

Theres confusion in the trenches; the troops are down and disorganized. Ill fight for you till the day I die, says Al Pacino as the hardened vet. The company priest joins him in the gut-check. Theres no atheists in foxholes, he says, spiritually whipping the boys into another charge. Jets soar overhead. The men stream to the front lines. Halftimes over, and the battle is joined. Football is hell-at least according to Oliver Stone, who so crassly parallels warfare with pro football that his metaphors become laughable. Never mind that Pacino, playing Miami Sharks hangdog head coach Tony DAmato, looks as if he wouldnt know a quarterback from a consigliere; his is actually the most well-rounded of Stones characters. At the center of what is, ostensibly, an examination of the American psyche, the aging DAmato is caught among the teams swirl of egos, the ownerships greed, and his own crumbled personal life. As the spoiled, selfish and confrontational modern athlete, Jamie Foxx stews in a pot of narcissistic self-loathing and racial hatred. Dare anyone question his discontent, well, Stone makes our allegiances clear: During a heated scene between Foxx and Pacino, he repeatedly cuts to a background television airing the slave galley scene from Ben-Hur. So much for subtlety. From the smart-ass sportswriter to the soulless team doctor-James Woods chewing turf, big time-to the stone cold circle of bitchy wives, hyperbole mars all characterizations and observations, however apt they may be. Surprisingly, while Stone mistakes the obvious for cultural insight, hes got a better handle on the mechanics, on the looks and sounds of football itself. Strapping cameras onto the helmets of current and former ballplayers, hes achieved a remarkable realism thats only heightened by his trademark kinetic direction and a propulsive soundtrack. In the end, though, Stone constructs a more compelling game than a satisfying movie. Opens 12/22.

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