Ah, men and their toys. As we learn in ENEMY OF THE STATE, NSA
(National Security Agency) has the best. They're to die for.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the king of the action movies from BEVERLY
HILLS COP to ARMAGEDDON, trots out his latest movie, ENEMY OF THE STATE,
and it's a dandy. Fast-paced and full of rapid cuts among high tech
gadgetry, the movie, directed by Tony Scott (TOP GUN and CRIMSON TIDE),
throws believability out the window and happily lets the audience just
kick back and have some fun.
As the story opens, a senator, played earnestly by Jason Robards,
refuses to support a new telecommunications bill that permits unlimited
wiretapping by our nation's federal agencies. Jon Voight, a bimodal
actor who either goes for creepy caricature or sincere intelligence,
plays NSA section head Thomas Brian Reynolds with impressive credibility
and enough brainpower to hold his own among the NSA nerds.
When the senator will not agree to support the bill, Reynolds and his
NSA goons kill him. As an environmental scientist named Zavitz, CHASING
AMY's Jason Lee accidentally videotapes the murder. A small army of bad
guys sweep down on Zavitz, but he manages to drop the tape in Robert
Dean's shopping bag at an expensive lingerie shop. This permits the
movie's photogenic star, Will Smith, who plays Dean, to hobnob with sexy
models, dressed only in revealing bras and panties. And it gives an
opening for one of the funny script's best interchanges. Dean later
jokes that the reason he was there was to pickup some items since he
likes to cross-dress on the weekends.
The rest of the movie is one long, high-tech, cat and mouse chase with
Reynolds and company going after Dean. Will Smith, being Will Smith,
semi-plausibly plays a guy who can elude dozens of guys with guns,
tracking devices, helicopters and spy satellites. They throw everything
but nuclear weapons at him, but he comes out almost unscathed.
The real star in the movie isn't Smith, Voight, or Gene Hackman, who
shows up at the midway point, but it's the technology. The movie spends
most of its time and bucks on demonstrations of advanced technical
hardware. And it also provides somber lessons in ways to avoid being
trapped in our government's crosshairs.
Spy satellites, aimed at us, are so powerful that they can observe the
stains on our clothes. We learn that you should never look up,
otherwise they will get a make on you. One shouldn't shop at
convenience stores or any place with a surveillance camera. And most of
all, never use a phone, even a pay phone.
Since Reynolds can't find the tape, he sets out to destroy Dean's life.
When a rogue agency goes after you, your reputation is history faster
than you can cry foul. Dean's job and marriage quickly go into the
toilet as Reynolds fabricates a stream of lies against him.
The always-fascinating Gene Hackman shows up in the movie's second half,
playing a mysterious, free-lance investigator named only Brill. With
black, horn-rimmed glasses and a quarter-inch haircut, he's the spitting
image of your grandfather's fishing buddy. Brill, dressed in
thrift-shop clothes rejects, is, of course, an ex-NSA agent who hates
and distrusts his old employer.
The movie, which becomes highly repetitious, gets a second wind at the
end. The film's creative last half-hour, when Dean and Brill turn
tables on NSA, is easily the best part. It's the sort of ending that's
liable to set audiences cheering. It did ours. As intriguing as ENEMY
OF THE STATE is, it is just as forgettable. Entertainment without
pretensions of being anything more, a typically satisfying Jerry
ENEMY OF THE STATE runs 2:08. It is rated R for violence and profanity
and would be fine for teenagers.
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes