Never let it be said that Oliver Stone is not an ambitious artist. While striving for the fulfillment of his vision, he doesn't hedge his bets. As a result, his strivings can just as often bring success as failure. This film, his exploration of the dark underbelly of professional football, has equal helpings of both. On the plus side are terrific insights into the pressures money and fame exert on the athletes, as well as a surprisingly nuanced dramatic performances by comedian Jamie Foxx and retired NFL linebacker Lawrence Taylor. The cinematography in the game sequences is also top-notch, putting the audience right inside the action, feeling every bone-rattling hit.
Among the drawbacks, though, are Cameron Diaz's thoroughly unbelievable character of the team owner (although she does a good job with it) and Al Pacino's histrionics as the head coach. But the most troubling, perhaps, is Stone's failure to get product licensing from the NFL. The upshot is that all team uniforms and properties in the film are fictional and their design needlessly gaudy, detracting from the impact of the realism Stone achieves elsewhere.
And yet, with all those shortcomings, this is still the best football film to date. Pacino plays Tony D'Amato, legendary coach of the Miami Sharks, who tries to hold his team together for one last playoff push. Along the way he must deal with an injury to his aging star quarterback (Dennis Quaid, playing a combination of Dan Marino and Brett Favre), a hotshot young upstart (Foxx, whose character is very obviously inspired by Michael Vick), the shady team doctor (James Woods), a Jim Rome-like TV host (John C. McGinley) and even the commissioner himself (given biblical authority by Charleton Heston).
The strengths of this movie are strong enough to smooth over its shortcomings, making it a must-see look at life behind the scenes in the NFL.
"On any given Sunday you're gonna win or you're gonna lose. The point is -- can you win or lose like a man?"
The scenes at the home of Cap Rooney (Quaid) were shot at the home of Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.
"Playmakers" (2003) and "Bull Durham" (1988).
Take a Look:
Here's Pacino giving his impassioned halftime speech: