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Enemy of the State

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 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 Walter Frith
2 stars out of 4

If you've seen one Tony Scott film you've seen them all, right? If you've seen one Jerry Bruckheimer film you've seen them all, right? If you like formula concoctions with loud noise, rapid editing and a swift pace then you'll enjoy 'Enemy of the State', right? Only once. This latest entry into the fast food market of film is made in the best tradition of Tony Scott's theme of slick machismo complete with shadows given off by window blinds, the exploitation of women (where can I find a lingerie store like the one in this film, darn I'm a hypocrite) and, of course, enough guns, explosions, chases, and slimy bad guys to fill a dozen movies with only a couple of good guys to go around. Although, this time, there is a nasty looking scene where a boom mic is visible not once but a couple of times. It occurs as Will Smith is talking to a mobster about 50 minutes into the movie.

I don't think I've ever seen a film where the bad guys execute their evil plans believing all the while that they're doing the right thing for the good of their country. Jon Voight portrays a sinister NSA (National Security Agency) agent who, along with some henchmen, murder a Congressman who refuses to go along with a telecommunications bill that will give the government greater power to invade the privacy of its citizens in the name of national security and their hope is that it will reduce crime, terrorism, internet mischief and other paranoia they perceive the be a threat. Evil for evil is their motto. It's just too bad for them that the murder was caught on tape by a hidden camera, used by a nature photographer and environmentalist whose life is now in danger.

Will Smith portrays a hot shot Washington D.C. attorney and the man with the deadly evidence is a friend of his who slips it into Smith's hands without his knowledge. Smith now becomes the target of the government's pursuit of the evidence and there is no shortage of technology with which to aid them. Complicating Smith's life is his past as we find out he had an adulterous affair with a woman from law school and his wife is suspicious he is fooling around with her again.

There is no surveillance you've ever seen like the type you will see in this movie. Cameras that can peek through concrete walls, huge government database systems that can tap a person's call, bring up their entire life's history, wiretap them and take pictures of their location using a satellite 155 miles above the Earth.

Gene Hackman plays a former NSA agent who assists Smith in his evasion of the government and Hackman has his own agenda for doing so. Hackman and Voight are the real actors and characters that make the picture work. Smith is a good leading man but there is no substitute for experience and Voight and Hackman simply upstage him at every turn.

There is also a sub plot involving the mob who make for interesting allies in the film's climax similar to the guys who helped Arnold Schwarzenegger in the climax of 'Eraser' but I'm not sure there is a need to find such witty qualities in organized crime.

Gene Hackman's role is under written as he doesn't appear in the film until the first 57 minutes and then he is still under used. A one hit wonder story can get tiresome after a while and this film is no exception.

The only redeeming quality the film has is that it points out that even though citizens of a great country like the United States know that their country can keep surveillance on them so closely, I don't think they realize that the technology used in this film is so state of the art and seeing Gene Hackman in this film brings back memories of his role as the wire tapper in 1974's 'The Conversation' and one mug shot of Hackman in the film, used by the government, looks exactly like his character from that film so I wouldn't be surprised if it was an inside joke in getting film buffs to find it.

The argument of privacy vs. safety would have been better made in an academic film rather than a technical one where intelligence is used this time around as an oxy moron and the audience is so overwhelmed technically, that they may miss the film's entire point if they don't focus on the film's message which often gets lifted away with the force of a tornado like feel and pace.

Copyright 1998 Walter Frith

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