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Face-Off: The Longest Yard (1974) vs. Any Given Sunday

Last week's Face-Off featured SWINGERS pals Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau in the ring with the director of IRON MAN getting the slight edge.

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States so I wanted to wish everybody down there a very joyous turkey day right off the bat. I’m Canadian and since we celebrated our Thanksgiving sometime in the summer, today is more like Thanksfootball for me. I’m also in a good mood since my Patriots smacked the Broncos last week so in honor of that win and Thanksfootball, I wanted to focus in on a couple of famous football flicks this week: THE LONGEST YARD (1974) vs. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY. Let the bone cracking begin...

Story
Paul “Wrecking” Crewe (Burt Reynolds) is a washed-up and disgraced ex-pro football QB that gets sent to jail for wreaking havoc one crazy afternoon. Once there, he runs into the typical a-hole warden (played by the always solid Eddie Albert) who convinces him to put together an inmate football squad to play a preparatory game versus the prison’s semi-pro team made up of those pesky guards.

Crewe puts together a band of misfit inmates, dubs them ‘The Mean Machine’ and prepares them for the ultimate game in which they can try to get their revenge. Besides revenge, they also want a crack at attempting to reclaim both their dignity and humanity against the brutes that mistreat them on a daily basis. Midway through the game, Crewe gets blackmailed by the warden (I told you he was an a-hole) into throwing the game and selling out his teammates or face getting framed with a longer jail sentence for a crime he didn’t commit. What will our hero do? This movie has laughs, hits, cheap shots, charm and a whole bunch ‘o’ heart!
It’s the modern age of pro football and we’re taken deep inside the Miami Sharks organization to see what makes their world go round. Soon, we discover selfish players, sleazy doctors, idiot owners and coaches who have witnessed the pure and innocent football days of old pass them by. While in the midst of this bullshit hurricane, coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino) screams and shouts as loud as possible to teach new QB Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) that football is more about being a leader and a man than being a superstar.

This is an Oliver Stone picture so football is also a metaphor for life, for war and probably two or three other things that I completely missed. We’re taken on a fast ride into today’s world of pro football and we witness all the beauty and horror that lies within it.
Pigskin Action
There are enough football sequences at the tail end of this film for you to get your football fix and then some. This movie also gives new meaning to the term “unnecessary roughness” as both inmates and guards inflict as much bodily harm on one another as they legally and illegally can. The results are many broken noses, broken necks, broken bones and in some cases, broken balls.

It’s incredibly fun seeing these guys use football as an excuse to try and kill each other. The final football sequence is a beauty and the way it’s played out and directed makes it one of the coolest moments of the entire movie.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY presents a great balance of sport action and powerful drama and its pigskin sequences are among some of the best I’ve ever seen in any football movie. Having been made 25 years after its competitor in this Face-Off, it also had the advantage of having the cinematic technology that allows us to feel like we’re in the middle of the action. It may not have as many fun cheap shots as THE LONGEST YARD, but it more than makes up for it in suspenseful plays, tense, realistic action and one gory eye injury that I still can’t fully watch without wincing.
Quotes
1) Paul Crewe: “Hey Pop, the time you hit Hazen in the mouth, was it worth 30 years?”

Pop: “For me it was.”

2) Walking Boss: [after the game] “Fuck you, boy!”

Crewe: “Not today, boss!”

3) Samson: “I think I broke his fuckin' neck!”

Announcer: “I think he broke his fuckin' neck!”

Team doctor: “One side, one side.”

[Examines injured player]

Team doctor: “Get the ambulance! I think he broke his fuckin' neck.”

Samson: “See! I told you I broke his fuckin' neck!”

4) Paul Crewe: “Whattya got for me, Sunshine?”

Caretaker: “I can get you steroids, vitamins, greenies, anything you want. You name it. I'm the best hustler in the joint.”

Paul Crewe: “How much of what this guy says he can do, can he do?”

Nate Scarboro: “He can get you laid in here... with a woman.”

5) Paul Crewe: “Nate, if you're thinking about winning this game, then you're as crazy as he is.”

Nate Scarboro: “Well, maybe so. But you spend fourteen years in this tank, you begin to understand that you've only got two things left they can't sweat out of you or beat out of you. Your balls. And you better hang onto them, because they're about the only thing you're gonna have when you get out of here.”
1) Tony D'Amato: “On any given Sunday you're gonna win or you're gonna lose. The point is - can you win or lose like a man?”

2) Tony D'Amato: “You're a goddamn quarterback! You know what that means? It's the top spot, kid. It's the guy who takes the fall. It's the guy everybody's looking at first - the leader of a team - who will support you when they understand you. Who will break their ribs and their noses and their necks for you, because they believe. 'Cause you make them believe. That's a quarterback.”

3) Tony D'Amato: "Now I can't do it for ya, I'm too old. I look around, I see these young faces and I think, I mean, I've made every wrong choice a middle-aged man can make. I've pissed away all my money, believe it or not. I chased off anyone who's ever loved me. And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror."

4) Tony D'Amato: "It's TV, it changed everything, changed the way we think forever. I mean the first time they stopped the game to cut away to some fucking commercial that was the end of it. Because it was our concentration that mattered, not theirs, not some fruitcake selling cereal."

5) Tony D'Amato: "We're in hell right now gentlemen. Believe me. And we can stay here, get the shit kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell... one inch at a time."
Star Power
Burt Reynolds is the key guy here and that’s almost enough as he was one of Hollywood’s biggest draws in the 1970s, mustache or not. Sprinkle in Hollywood legend Eddie Albert, Richard Kiel (Jaws from the James Bond movies), Ed Lauter and James Hampton (the dad from TEEN WOLF) and you’ve got a pretty fun cast. To be honest though, it’s all about Burt and this cat carries the entire movie on his broad shoulders.
This movie offers up shining stars (Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, Cameron Diaz, Aaron Eckhart), never stars (Matthew Modine, LL Cool J, Elizabeth Berkley, Lauren Holly), classic Hollywood stars (Chuck Heston, Ann-Margret), football stars (Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor) and my favorite star John C. McGinley.
Moral
Moral #1) When life gives you a shot at giving assholes a spoonful of revenge and stickin’ it to them – you take it!

Moral #2) Decent and honest wardens don't exist in prison films.
Moral #1) Almost everybody that plays any part in any pro football organization is an unbalanced, selfish, greedy, egomaniacal monster.

Moral #2) If you can outshout somebody, you usually have a pretty good shot at winning the argument.

Moral #3) Everything used to be better “back then.”
Any Given Sunday
I always enjoy watching THE LONGEST YARD and it’s got all the laughs and violence a football movie needs but it’s very difficult to beat out ANY GIVEN SUNDAY which holds pro football under the microscope revealing all that is good and bad about the great sport. Besides, it’s always a treat seeing James Woods playing a colossal prick.

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