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Any Given Sunday was a pleasant surprise for me. Not being the world’s greatest American Football fan (far too many ad breaks for my liking), I avoided this film for a while. Eventually though, the lure of a great cast and Oliver Stone’s direction became too much. Thankfully you don’t need to be a fan of the game to get into the film, as the themes could easily apply to any number of sports. This is the director’s cut of the film, complete with scenes missing from the US theatrical release and DVD.

Any Given Sunday
Al Pacino stars as Tony D’Amato, head coach of the Miami Sharks. D’Amato`s team have just lost four in a row, and to make matters worse he has just lost his star quarter back, Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid), to injury. Up steps young pretender Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), who after a shaky start quickly becomes the hottest new thing in football (he even has his own rap video)! Unfortunately his success goes to his head and he manages to alienate his teammates, his girlfriend, and his coach. D’Amato, who is under increasing pressure from Sharks owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz), has to watch his beloved team slowly disintegrate around him.

Any Given Sunday features so many fine performances as to be untrue; it really is an embarrassment of riches. Not only do we get Pacino, Quaid and Diaz, but we’re also treated to great turns from James Woods as the Sharks morally ambiguous doctor, LL Cool J as the teams showboating star running back, Jamie Foxx as Willie Beamen, Mathew Modine, Lauren Holly and more. The acting is superb all round, but as usual Pacino shines. Oh, and Elizabeth Berkley shows up just long enough to get her kit off, which is always nice.

Nice pom-poms...
The film is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, and is generally of a very high quality. I did notice a few minor image problems, but nothing to get worked up about. The blacks aren’t as black as they could be in certain scenes, and this is where grain becomes evident. The football matches themselves are visual feasts, Stone really catches the mood of the games. The use of CGI to enhance the scenes is well done, without being obtrusive.

The disc’s audio is among some of the best in my collection, on a par with Saving Private Ryan, The Fifth Element and Fight Club. The Dolby 5.1 mix really puts you in the centre of the stadium during game time; with the roar of the crowd, the shouts of the players, and the sub lets you feel every bone-jarring tackle. Music is excellent, and features a variety of rap artists (LL Cool J and Jamie Foxx both have tracks featured), as well as music from the likes of Fatboy Slim and the Propellerheads. It`s safe to say the film is an aural feast.

Any Given Sunday
The extra features are outstanding. On the first disc we have an isolated score in 5.1, two commentaries (one from Stone and one from cast & crew members), and a trailer. The second disc contains deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary, an outtakes/gag reel section, three music videos, Jamie Foxx’s audition and screen tests, football outtakes montage, a landscape montage, a stills gallery and the theatrical poster campaign. A fair amount of DVD Rom content is also included. It will take you some time to plough through the features on offer here.

Any Given Sunday is a great film that has given me a greater interest in the game it showcases. The football set-pieces are fantastic; massive blokes running around, doped up to the eyeballs on painkillers and god knows what else, trying to beat seven shades out of each other... It’s exciting stuff. The film is about a lot more than just football though, and I really can’t do it justice here. You’ll just have to watch it for yourself.