'Any Day': Film Review

Courtesy of Prodigy Public Relations
Despite the efforts of a fine cast, this mawkish drama features nary a believable moment

Sean Bean plays an alcohlic boxer struggling for spiritual redemption in Rustam Branaman's melodrama with religious undertones.

A fine cast is wasted in actor Rustam Branaman's directorial debut, a ham-fisted melodrama about an alcoholic boxer seeking redemption after serving a 12-year prison sentence for killing a man in a drunken brawl. Starring Sean Bean, Eva Longoria, Kate Walsh and Tom Arnold, Any Day features a faith-based subtext awkwardly shoe-horned into its old-fashioned tale that has the dated feel of a Warner Brothers '30s programmer. Available on VOD for the last month, it's now receiving a limited theatrical release that will surely be a fast fade.

Bean, sporting an ill-fitting American accent, plays Vian ("It's a family name"), who in the film's opening scene is seen pummeling a man to death with his bare fists at an outdoor party. Cut to 12 years later, with the former boxer now pursuing a straight and narrow path, moving in with his divorced sister Bethley (Walsh) and her young son Jimmy (Nolan Gross) who's happy to become acquainted with the uncle he never knew.

Desperately searching for even the most menial, minimum wage job, the now sober Vian finds doors constantly being slammed in his face. But his life seems to start turning around when he gets hired to work at a local pizzeria run by the affable Roland (Arnold) and begins a relationship with the attractive Jolene (Longoria), who during their first date says, "There is something different about you."

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Branaman's disjointed screenplay includes myriad subplots, including the hovering presence of Jolene's creepy ex-boyfriend (Paul Ben-Victor) who's desperately trying to win her back, and the frequent appearances of a teenage bully, the son of the local D.A. (yes, that last detail eventually figures in the plot), who improbably harasses not only the timid Jimmy but also his hulking uncle. There are also hints about Roland being a recovering alcoholic — at one point he hurriedly rushes off to a "men's meeting" — and his pathetic relationship with a sexy stripper that apparently consists of his giving her wads of money only to be repeatedly stood up.

Featuring endless scenes that defy credibility — Vian's relentless pleading for Jolene to give him her phone number upon their first meeting at a supermarket is so creepy that one expects her to seek a restraining order — Any Day truly succumbs to mawkishness in its final act in which a fateful incident leads Vian back to the bottle. Suffice it to say that the young Jimmy is ultimately revealed to be not only innocent but positively angelic.

Bean certainly has the necessary strong physical presence for his role, as demonstrated by so many scenes featuring him strenuously exercising that they make Rocky look like a slacker. But both he and his female co-stars are unable to overcome the narrative contrivances, with only the appealingly low-key Arnold and talented child actor Gross managing to provide credible characterizations.

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Relying heavily on the cliched use of time-lapse photography to enhance the ominous mood, the film also features not one but two renditions of the Bob Dylan song "I Shall Be Released" whose lyrics provide its title. But much like the cover version heard in the opening and closing moments, Any Day feels strictly ersatz.

Production: Jaguar Entertainment
Cast: Sean Bean, Eva Longoria, Kate Walsh, Tom Arnold, Nolan Gross
Director/screenwriter: Rustram Branaman
Producers: Darryl Marshak, Andrew Sugerman, Jeanette Zhou
Executive producers: Luke Daniels, Corey Large, Alan Pao, Liqing Zeng
Director of photography: Harlan Bosmojian
Production designer: Gary Randall
Editor: Todd C. Ramsay
Costume designer: Nik Venet
Composer: Elia Cmiral

Not rated, 98 minutes