Movie Review: Any Given Sunday

imagesIn most of my movie reviews I poke fun at sports movies that I love, and I totally intend to do that along the way with Any Given Sunday, but as I was watching I realized that the monologues, soliloquies, the pacing and the overall structure are extremely Shakespearean. So if you are only interested in the jokes read the black portions. If the idea that Oliver Stone patterned a football movie from a Shakespearean tragedy and to find out which one, read the red portions. I hope that I convey my thoughts well enough that you’ll enjoy both.

-Lightning storm and a Vince Lombardi quote to open. That’s setting the bar pretty high.

-We start with very violent line of scrimmage game play between the Al Pacino coached Miami Sharks and the Minnesota Americans. Looks a lot like the Dolphins versus the Patriots. I guess they didn’t want to pay the NFL; OR the NFL read the script and didn’t want to associate itself with a movie full of prophecy for what was to happen in the NFL since 1999.

-Dennis Quaid, the 38 year old star QB, is absolutely crushed by a blitzer. The violence and action are bone chilling.

-Cameron Diaz the meddlesome owner, who inherited the team from her now deceased father.

hamletbook-Al Pacino is Hamlet, the passed over rightful football heir to the throne of a football team he helped build. Passed over for Cameron Diaz the daughter and rightful bloodline heir to the football reigns. While maybe its a stretch, the way Diaz came to the throne is incestuous in the sense that she has no real acumen for football, but for business. Stay with me, it makes more and more sense.

woodsgriffin-Peter Griffin’s arch nemesis James Woods is the team orthopedist and calls out Dennis Quaid’s toughness and ability to get off the field forcing Quaid, who has a hurt back, to walk off. This is the first indication of what the team, the doctors, the coaches, the managers, and the fans expect from football players. They expect them to be tough, and as a result they force the issue.

-Jim Brown, former NFL star and maybe the best running back in NFL history, yelling at Lawrence Taylor, former NFL start and maybe the best linebacker in NFL history! Both have been arrested multiple times since they have left the NFL.

-Pacino tells the backup QB just to hold onto the ball, run out the clock. He gets sacked, fumbles, Minnesota returns it for a defensive TD. Pacino is pissed, in a way that only Pacino can be pissed.

-Willie Beamin (Jamie Foxx, who appears to think he is Will Smith) has his play sheet upside down, has just run into the huddle (as the 3rd QB) and upon arriving when he tries to call the play, he throws up.

-After Beamin’s first pass he is absolutely CRUSHED with a late hit to the head by a linebacker. If that happened today the player might get thrown out of the league forever.

-Hey its LL Cool J! Telling Beamin to audible, which he does, to a play that doesn’t exist. To say the least it is ineffective.

harveydent-Harvey Dent the offensive coordinator Beamin needs right now, but not the one he deserves.

-So an offensive lineman is getting bags and bags of IV during half time, and pills and shots, talks about his cycling on and off steroids and then all the sudden needs to shit. I mean what is this guy taking that requires him to have to shit so quickly without warning? I did not see an enema, which is good, I bet his ass is almost as ugly as that shit.

-Halftime and Pacino’s first football coach soliloquy, he is talking up his team, telling them they can win this game despite being down to their 3rd string QB.

-This speech is eerily reminiscent of Hamlet’s first monologue in Act I, scene iv. Hamlet and Pacino are both struggling for control and to understand their situations and trying to lead those loyal to them to resolution. Pacino his team to victory, Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus to comprehend the Ghost. The sentiments are eerily similar in both pacing and presentation.

-LL Cool J lightens the mood in what was getting to be a very, very serious locker room speech.

-The violence under football piles is gruesome and terrifying. They do a very good job demonstrating that just after halftime. You do NOT want to know what’s going on down there.

pacinofoxx2-Pacino calls over Beamin and is tutoring him in a way that isn’t very effective, even evoking the word “hood”. Its our first view of the real separation and misunderstanding of the races.

-Beamin is Pacino’s Ophelia. They need each other for it work for both of them. This is the first conversation between the 2 of them, the start of their courting period.

-The “hood” conversation works magically as Beamin throws a long TD and Pacino looks like a genius.

-Pacino’s sharks are ahead 34-31 and the owner is calling the offensive coordinator, Harvey Dent, and bitching about Pacino’s conservative play calling. Harvey Dent tries to talk Pacino into calling a short pass play into the flat. He doesn’t and LL Cool J fumbles resulting in the sharks losing the game.

-Pacino’s speech about losing and humility is very tough to see Michael Corleone see deliver.

-This speech is very much a Hamlet soliloquy. Not a specific one per say, but very much in the tone in deference of Hamlet when he is beginning to have a realization about his situation.

-Wait, is that Bell Biv Devoe or Bill Bellamy?

-Dennis Quaid has had a disc removed and is screaming about how the morphine drip isn’t enough, he promises he will be back by the playoffs, after a trip to Germany. Oh wait that was Peyton Manning.

jessie-Jessie Spano is propositioning Al Pacino!

-Jessie is talking about watching Pacino coach when she was like 16 and at Bayside High. I may have added the Bayside High line in my mind.

-Jessie Spano is indecently propositioning Pacino, this is far worse than when she was addicted to caffeine pills!

-Pacino is drunk dialing his wife who we never meet, talking about his son who we never meet and it turns out he never actually dialed the phone when we hear the old school phone message, “if you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.”

-Come on, how Hamlet is THAT! Total soliloquy about loss and regret all the while foreshadowing events to come.

-The next day at practice Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor are both absolutely insane and it comes across completely.

-Cameron Diaz has had conversations with the city of Los Angeles about them building a new stadium for her to move the team there. Is she Rachel Phelps from Major League?

pacinodiaz-Its pretty scary, as Diaz talks about offense in football, how prescient she was in how the vertical offenses of the NFL would explode in the 2000s. Even if she is being a cunt and threatening Pacino’s job, telling him her father didn’t think he was up for the task on running the organization.

-This scene is very much like the scene in Hamlet just after he returns to Denmark and his Uncle the King and Mother the Queen are celebrating their recent marriage vows. There is a lot of pent up anger on both sides. Hamlet is being a bit of a petulant child, like Pacino, and the King is commanding Hamlet to be happy for the marriage, like Diaz is commanding Pacino to modernize his offense.

-Its the next game and the Sharks are trailing big in the second half.

tecmo-Watching LT come around the edge and blindside sack a QB is very much like watching Tecmo Super Bowl LT.

-And we get our first look at a concussed LT. He shakes it off.

-Beamin makes a great run on a blown play designed for LL Cool J. The announcers talk about Beamin in ways I’ve never heard athletes described, his “super ankles” for example, where the fuck did they get that? Also LL Cool J is pissed.

-The undercurrents of the racial atmosphere of the movie is starting to come to a head as the players, coaches, owner and mayor are all at a DARE gala where Diaz is giving a check to the black mayor of the city. The black mayor wants to meet the QB so Diaz introduces Quaid. The black mayor wants to meet Beamin and isn’t so subtle about letting her know that. All the while LL Cool J and Bel Biv Devoe Bellamy are cheating on their significant others with groupies and doing drugs in a room at the hotel.

twoface-TwoFace tells Diaz that he won’t waste another season under Michael Corleone.

-This isn’t exactly how Laertes screws with Hamlet during the play, but it is certainly in the same vein, as Beamin (Ophelia) could be Eckhart’s (Laertes) great playmaking QB and Eckhart has been hiding from Pacino (Hamlet) that Beamin has been changing the plays in huddle. Much like Laertes was trying to protect Ophelia from Hamlet’s romantic advances.

-In a very, very small, but important scene Pacino calls out Diaz after her mother gives Pacino back his Super Bowl, sorry Pantheon Cup ring. She was trying to wax nostalgically about when her father designed the ring and how she would have to wear hers on a chain around her neck, and he tells her she has to win one first. Its a great line he delivers perfectly, twice.

-This is very much the scene where Hamlet has the players act out the murder of his father.

-Sports movie cliche as Beamin breaks up with his long time girlfriend, now that he is a budding superstar.

-In a small show of how Pacino struggles with race he starts talking to Beamin about music. Beaming knows nothing about jazz, but somehow goes onto play Ray Charles.

-Professional football in LA! This might be the last time we ever really see it!

-Beamin pukes again, its a running gag, a bad running gag.

-Beamin starts changing plays again, LL Cool J does not approve.

-I truly miss team TD celebrations. For this one Beamin scored, “pulled the pin” as if the football were a grenade and when it landed all the players fell down, all over the field. Its great, bring them back NFL, bring them back.

-Sharks win! Secure a spot in the playoffs! Good thing or this movie would be exactly the right length!

-In the locker room postgame the black/white thing erupts first over which music to listen to. The white metal guys declaring, “Hetfield is God!”. Then when accused by the black players of having poor dance moves the white metal guy brings a baby alligator and puts it in the shower with the black players. Where the fuck did he get a baby alligator at a road game? Was it in his carry on? Did he check it? I know I’m comparing Hamlet and Any Given Sunday, but seriously an alligator?

diazlockerroom-Diaz walks into the locker room. A lot of the players are totally naked. She shakes hands with a black player who lives up to every stereotype. Its pretty awkward and only gets worse having to look at Beamin in a jock strap.


group-LL Cool J in a meeting with Pacino and Harvey Dent tells them he wants to get paid and that Beamin changing the plays is preventing him from getting his stats. TwoFace had been hiding this from Pacino because it made him look good.

-Orthopedist and Peter Griffin’s arch nemesis James Woods is very aware of how football works in terms of players using and abusing drugs and their bodies, he gets it. The idealistic trainer is very aware of where football is going in term on trying to get players to NOT do these things. The fight between the two is amazingly prescient after seeing the game progress in matters of player safety.

-Met-Rx is the apparently the big product placement company, complete with a Beamin music video.

robertedwards-Flag game with the players on the beach. It will never happen again after during a similar game Pro Bowl weekend the Patriots star rookie Robert Edwards blew out his knee and never made it back to anywhere near the level he played at as a rookie.

-Sports movie cliche where Beamin appears on every sports magazine cover in a montage.

-Dennis Quaid knows he isn’t getting his job back. He gets how the game works, or he read the script.

-James Woods knows everything about concussions and lays out essentially what happened concerning them in the last 15 years of football, does that mean that the NFL really knew?

diazwoods-The owner and orthopedist are making roster decisions without any input from the coaching staff.

-More black and white race stuff, not that it isn’t true, but it is getting tiresome.

-Jessie Spano is dissing Michael Corleone. Screech is sure to end up in a body bag as a result.

-Here comes the gladiator movie cliche avalanche. To the point they are showing scenes from what looks like Ben Hur.

-Pacino and Beamin start going back and forth about their roles. Pacino is trying to impart some of his wisdom on the young Beamin. Beamin is very much in that rebellious no one wanted me phase. While its a total power struggle cliche Pacino and Beamin are both really fucking good. Most people think of them as chewing the scenery, but I don’t think so.

-This is equivalent to the Hamlet and Ophelia back and forth just before the play begins.

-The Sharks are having a team party filled with drugs and no wives.

-I bet this is what the Dallas Cowboys “white house” was like in the 90s.

-Beamin is calling out his team, specifically the defense, even when warned to shut the fuck up about it, especially in LT’s house. When he won’t stop LL Cool J goes to LT and tells him. LT responds how he might have in real life. He acquires some jaws of life and cuts Beamin’s car in half. Literally. Its a life lesson and a football lesson about symbiosis. LT phrases it far differently, but at least he didn’t make up any bull shit about Medichlorions like some other movie that came out in 1999 and wanted to create a metaphor about symbiosis.

-In the next game the offensive line won’t play for Beamin. Beamin’s talk about being “the man” has alienated him from the team. When they continually won’t block for him he yells at them in the huddle, telling him he doesn’t need them. That is bound to help. /sarcasm

-To be very honest this is where I first started to realize the similarities between Any Given Sunday and Hamlet because the movie is really just a series of Pacino monologues and soliloquies. I have to be honest though, I don’t know that anyone could have pulled it off as well as he did. He really isn’t chewing the scenery, like most people think, he is acting very Shakespearean.

-Jim Brown and Pacino talk about how TV changed everything about football. Its totally true for more than just football, in many ways its very much true for pop culture.

-Jessie Spano!

-I’ve tried to hold back my delirious excitement about this, but I can’t do it anymore! The sleeveless shirt count is amazing!

-James Woods talks old school football, crazily, passionately, and totally correctly.

-The crazy passionate scene where James Woods is fired is totally the scene where Hamlet kills Polonius. While the circumstances are different and Hamlet doesn’t know the length and breadth of Polonius’s double nature, and he accidentally kills Polonius, he certainly isn’t terribly upset about it. Pacino isn’t terribly upset about James Woods being gone either because James Woods was always working behind Pacino’s back, like Polonius to Hamlet.

-Its the little kid calls out a pro athlete cliche as LL Cool J’s desire to win is questioned. Its a cliche most aptly encapsulated by the “Say it ain’t so Joe” moment in Eight Men Out.

-LT is talking at Beamin in a sauna. The steam adds intensity to Steamin Willie Beamin. Yes that’s Beamin’s nickname and yes they are in a sauna. Thats ridiculous.

-Its totally a Shakespearean scene, it doesn’t quite fit anywhere into Hamlet, but the tenor and tone are very much Shakespearean.

cano-Beamin’s agent is talking up Beamin telling him about how much money he is going to make, but not making any promises about with which team. I imagine a similar conversation happened with Robinson Cano and Jay-Z, and look how that worked out for Cano.

-Beamin leaves a conversation saying “holla”. Remember when that was cool? Neither do I.

-The way they build up to the playoff game is huge. I would expect that building up to the Super Bowl, I mean Pantheon Cup, but to a first round playoff game?

-The trainer who is preparing LT for the game finally understands the football mentality versus the medical mentality as LT asks for cortisone even though it doesn’t make sense medically.

-The famous Pacino monologue is Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” monologue.

-This speech is talking about fighting for inches and adding inches and it really sounds like a spam email about penis enlargement.

-Dallas is up 7 early. Dennis Quaid enters the huddle for the first time in the movie, and he just gets sports movies.

-Tied 7-7.

-Beamin sending hand signals in from the sideline just signaled for vagina.

-Dallas up 14-7.

-Quaid fumbles after taking a big hit.

-Dallas up 21-10.

-Quaid runs for a TD. Its a courageous moment of leadership that ends his career. Great teaching moment.

-Dallas up 21-17.


-The owner is in the locker room at halftime. I can’t imagine any real professional coach putting up with this sort of behavior but I imagine that it happens.

-First play coming out of halftime. Beamin’s first play. Pacino wants to air it out with play 999. I love play 999. Beamin under throws 999, the biggest sin for 999, and gets picked.

eye-Why did that guy have to actually lose an eye? Its a way too hyperbolic comment about the violence in football.

-Sharks run a double reverse for a TD, Dallas up 28-24.

-Dallas scores, Dallas up 35-24

-LL Cool J TD, is something like a phenomenon! Dallas 35-31.

-The tension is mounting. 2 minutes left, Dallas with the ball, its 4th and 1.

-Just noticed Barry Switzer is in the booth calling the game. He never left that booth. No one has ever seen him again. He is very much the Amelia Earhart of football commentators.

-LT is down! He is hurt bad and totally unresponsive. He finally comes too and they get him on the back board and cart. When an athlete is carted off, it is the scariest moment in sports. When they wave or give a thumbs up, it is one of the greatest.

-Its a long TD pass to Bel Biv DeBellamy. Its a TD. The sharks are ahead! No they aren’t the crazy alligator wielding guy is called for a hold. And gets ejected for throwing his alligator at the ref. I might have made up the alligator part.

-9 seconds left Sharks trail 35-31.

-Pacino, in a moment of adventurous play calling that surprises Harvey Dent, calls a speed option run. Beamin gets it to LL Cool J, who doesn’t go for the end zone and gets out of bounds, by doin it and doin it and doin it well he saves enough time on the clock for 1 more play.

-Last play, Beamin drops back to pass, everyone is covered, he sprints for the pile and leaps over it toward the end zone and the outcome is in question, you can cut the tension with a knife until Porkins look-a-like (the ref) comes in and signals TD!

-Sharks win! Sharks win! They celebrate like they are going to the Super Bowl, I mean the Pantheon Cup, but in reality they are just going to round 2 of the playoffs.

-After the game and the crowds are gone and Pacino tells Beamin he is leaving the Sharks after the season.

-At a press conference a few weeks later after the Sharks have been eliminated from the playoffs there is a press conference announcing Pacino’s leaving the team.

-Diaz thanks him for his service to the team and tells him he will always be respected. And after the commissioner has thwarted her plan to move the team, announces that her and the mayor are working together to keep the team in Miami for a long time.

-Pacino takes the mic and introduces Harvey Dent, the hero the Sharks need, but not the hero they deserve.

-Pacino then thanks the city of Miami and announces he is going to be the general manager and head coach of the expansion Albuquerque team where he just signed Willie Beamin to be his franchise player. Its a total fuck you to Diaz and TwoFace. If “dropping the mic” was a thing then he totally would have dropped the mic. It wasn’t. He didn’t.

In the end its a movie that is way too long. It clocks in at 2 hours and 38 minutes. And it doesn’t even cover an entire season, or entire playoff run. Does that make it bad? No. Does it make it Shakespearean? Absolutely!

In the end Pacino is Hamlet. Diaz is King Claudius. Jamie Foxx is Ophelia. Diaz’s mom is Queen Gertrude. Aaron Eckhart is Laertes. James Woods is Polonius. At various points Jim Brown and Dennis Quaid share the role of Horatio. That Any Given Sunday makes a dramatic shift in ending as Pacino and Foxx end up together versus Hamlet where everyone dies. It is a large break but in the end when Pacino leaves the Sharks and signs Foxx to the deal to play for a new team is very much the way that Hamlet set up all his enemies over and over, most notably Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

While in the end it isn’t a strict production of The Tragedy of Hamlet and the coincidence almost assuredly lies in the fact that the character and themes of Hamlet have transcended our collective consciousness. Even if the writers and producers used them without knowing it. All that said though, it works and very well. Go back and give it a watch, recall your high school English and see if you recognize the themes and the characters from an age gone by in a place very much alive in our culture today.

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Any Given Sunday

  1. This movie is worthless. A football movie for males and they show us men’s genitals? When Cameron Diaz shakes the naked guy’s hand the shot should have been done so we saw her response not his genitals. The way it was done was strictly female chauvinism so Stone could show male genitals. Disgusting.

    I think men should refuse to watch another Stone movie.

    Where are all the movies that show women’s clitoris’. That, according to Gray’s Anatomy, the experts in anatomy, is the equivalent to the male penis.

    The female chauvinists like Sheila Nevins at HBO think showing women’s breasts is equivalent to completely exposing men and showing their genitals.

    Completely exposing men and showing their genitals is exactly the same as completely exposing women and showing their genitals. It is not the same as showing a woman’s nipple as the female chauvinist sows at the MPAA and HBO think.

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