'Any Day' DVD review, starring Sean Bean, Kate Walsh, Eva Longoria and Tom Arnold

Any Day is the kind of terrible movie you feel bad for as you watch it implode. Only the best of intentions drive writer/director Rustam Branaman’s third film — a redemption story centered on a former ex-fighter/alcoholic and his journey to discover love, stability and possibly God following a prolonged jail sentence — but shoddy writing, abysmal editing and entirely inept direction constantly belittle any goodwill this paint-by-numbers drama can pertain. Once its clichés turn to deliriously baffling third-act results, however, it becomes perhaps the most embarrassing credit to be associated on the filmography of anyone involved. It should be noted this movie also stars Tom Arnold.

Branaman’s misgivings are often the ones comprehended only when seen. A cop-out statement as any, but this hyperbolic-prone, wholeheartedly overwrought suburban drama is the type of disaster bad movie enthusiasts would never predict to see from such a watered-down religious melodrama. It’s not simply its stiff staging or sappy structure plaguing the endearing intentions of this movie’s dire execution. It’s a bizarre and nearly unforgivable dedication from the filmmakers to restraint Any Day from echoing anything resembling humanity whatsoever. Subplots are picked up and never resolved, relationships are formed just in a matter of lines, a pile of money is literally dug up from the ground to solve a major conflict and there’s an completely unearned third act “twist” so cheap and uncalled it spawns uproarious laughter when tears are meant to be elicited.

It’s formulaic by design, but by trying to divert story expectations does it quickly go off the rails in more appallingly kooky directions. Seriously, this makes some Lifetime movies look more plausible in how far they go down the rabbit hole. Even calling this a bad TV movie is derogatory to some fine films put on the tube today. It’s at best confused and at worst ill-gotten. It never knows what it’s trying to do and, as it rushes through its tactile plotline without any care for character growth, proper motivation and attention to pacing, it’s blunt, obvious dialogue and poorly handled genre changes stand out more prominently by the second.

Again, writing all of this about such a woefully sweet-minded movie feels like beating down a frail child. How anyone who read this script though it could work is inconceivable even before his poor direction plays a factor, but knowing the man roped in the likes of Sean Bean, Kate Walsh, Eva Longoria, Arnold and even Shane Black for a cameo is bewildering on a whole different level. Bean gives what little humanity he can to Vian, our lead, struggling mightily to make him approachable and trust-worthy throughout his hard-knuckled journey. Likewise, Walsh also gives her best efforts to make Vian’s sister Bethley — a sometimes exasperatingly downtrodden figure — earn any pathos. And while there are one-or-two moments where she shines, it only serves as a greater reminder of her wasted talents.

Longoria barely factors into Any Day enough to make an impact one way or the other. She survives as best she can as the bland love interest Jolene — a middle-class businesswoman seemingly spending most of her day, or so we assume based on how little we see of her, wielding creepy strangers’ date requests in the grocery store (in what’s supposed to be an endearing meet-cute moment between her and our lead) or neglecting roses and sweet nothings from her the ex-husband (Paul Ben-Victor) stalking her almost every day in front of her lawn. Despite vaguely knowing her fine financial stability, her life is hardly explored. She essentially becomes a plot destination in Vian’s social recovery: no more, no less. Arnold’s Roland — a pizza shop owner who takes Vian under his wing and, of course, finds as much help from him as Bean’s character finds in his new employer — is similarly just there to help Vian become a dimensional character of some sort but, to his credit, his performance is probably the best beyond Bean’s.

The comedic actor’s work is given more room to be thoughtful and compassionate and, although Branaman never really gives him the proper steps to grow, he balances his sense of humor and heart as well as anyone could here. Even little Jimmy (Nolan Gross) puts his heart into this, but being given some of the worst dialogue any kid actor could hope for doesn’t do him many favors. It’s not any of their faults. They try to respect their given characters and produce something touching and/or genuine, but the instance to make this more emotionally bombastic and obvious in its message cripples them at every turn.

This is also just barely delving into how laughably blunt and overly-PC the writing comes across. Producers instance likely explains why harsh language is awkwardly avoided (including hell and damn) for family audiences — despite the writer clearly wanting to write dialogue a little saltier than permitted — but having them allow the characters to talk so frank about sex or permit such harsh violence makes it impossible to determine the intended audience for this morality tale. The story design is often too cookie-cutter to resonate, and whatever risks the filmmaker takes often are the goofiest and most unbelievable ones the screenwriter could derive in their given scenarios. Even its religious overtones are unusually understated.

Again, this is all coming across harsher than desired. Any Day is an entirely inoffensive movie, and what it lacks in good judgment it almost makes up for in plain-faced sincerity. It’s not enough, though, to work. It’s disastrously miscalculated cinema, and there’s no redemption in that.

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