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Enemy of the State

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Enemy of the State

Starring: Will Smith, Gene Hackman
Director: Tony Scott
Rated: R
RunTime: 128 Minutes
Release Date: January 1998
Genres: Action, Suspense




Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

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. Literally.

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 Bruckheimer movie.

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

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