Sean Bean dies a lot. At least, that’s the traditional take on the British actor’s on-screen career. He dies a lot. Sean Bean doesn’t die in Any Day, but the sneakily faith-based drama is preoccupied enough with his character’s rocky post-prison resurrection that he might as well have, if only to make his eventual rebirth pack the kind of legitimate punch it’s sorely missing.
Punching is still the order of the day, however, as Bean stars in Rustam Branaman’s feature as Vian, a former boxer whose drinking drives him to punch a man literally to death, resulting in a 12-year lockup that does little for his psyche or sense of self. Eventually freed, Vian attempts to re-enter the real world with mixed results, as Branaman’s script piles on low-level drama, bad decisions, and enough misdirection to make the film’s baffling ending feel not just unearned, but entirely unbelievable.
The film opens with debauchery, fueled by equal parts beer and bad makeup, neither of which seems particularly nefarious on its own. Amidst all the revelry, scrappy Vian (“it’s a family name”) engages in a slap fight with a jerky party guest, one that turns deadly once Vian really lets the guy have it, beating him to a pulp for no discernible reason. Twelve years later, a cowed Vian is back on the streets. Re-entry isn’t easy, and Vian struggles to pull together the basics: a home, a job, a hobby. His sister Bethley (Kate Walsh, who gives the best performance of the film) eventually allows Vian to stay with her and her young son Jimmy (Nolan Gross), though she forces her obviously broken brother to bunk out in her dirty garage and consistently belittles him for asking for the most basic of comforts.
In short, it’s not going well for Vian, but despite that kernel of a good idea—that prison can breed confused, disconnected people who, despite their best attempts at acclimating to the world, need some help along the way—Any Day instead opts to go the vaguely faith-based route. Despite her initially uncharitable behavior toward her own brother, Bethley clearly has a spiritual bent, proclaiming to Vian, “I know that God will provide,” even as she’s stressing about paying her bills. That may sound somewhat comforting, but Bethley’s faith comes with some bite, as young Jimmy soon asks his uncle, “Why do you think God had Grandma and Grandpa die in a car crash?,” a belief passed on to him by his own mother.
Vian’s rebirth is marked by some wins, including a truly awkward and pushy encounter with the pretty Jolene (Eva Longoria) that oddly ends with her conceding to go out with him, and the acquisition of a new job at Roland’s (Tom Arnold) pizzeria, helped along by Roland’s wacky belief that his “instincts never lie” when it comes to people. But everything feels weirdly out of focus and shiftless. The film’s soundtrack and score don’t help matters, continually confusing the film’s tone, as it flips between the dramatic (lots of high-tension strings) and the light (an oft-played country-pop song that is apparently also titled “Any Day”). It’s impossible to get a read on what the film is pushing toward, or what the message will be once something actually happens. Although a number of possible problems stack up, including Jolene’s creepy ex-boyfriend, a teen bully who harasses both Jimmy and Vian, Roland’s interest in a gold-digging stripper, and Vian’s apparent desire for booze, nothing feels especially pressing, and the film is devoid of tension.
The film casts about for some kind of dramatic upheaval to drive the narrative and its many characters’ evolutions, but instead of settling on one of the many problems Vian has on his plate, the film’s third act all but invents one. Any Day features a series of out-of-place shots of Jimmy lazing around on his bike, gauzy and dreamy-like, that are initially confusing, before suddenly snapping them into sharp focus. Any Day features a third act twist that’s baffling and bizarre—see The Reveal—the kind of thing that feels ripped out of a particularly bad soap opera or a Nicholas Sparks film. Built on a number of ludicrous contrivances, Any Day eventually pushes its disparate pieces together into a misguided and oddly unsettling storyline that places a premium on faith, the blind kind, the kind that doesn’t concern itself with questions or logistics, or even the most basic of instincts.